TRENTON – The full Assembly voted for a Democratic-sponsored measure that would void the contract recently negotiated by the Christie administration to give control of the state’s public broadcasting to a New York broadcaster while leaving taxpayers on the hook for remaining costs.
The measure (ACR-201) passed the Assembly by a vote of 45-30 last night. The resolution, if approved by the Senate as well, would veto the contract recently negotiated by the State Treasurer to turn over the television operations of the state’s public broadcasting system, currently operated by New Jersey Network Public Television and Radio, to Public Media NJ, Inc., a subsidiary of WNET.
“This is about preserving the integrity of public broadcasting in our state. WNET is the public broadcasting station for the New York metropolitan area. It’s not a New Jersey based entity and there are many doubts about whether it will devote the resources necessary to continue covering the issues that are important to our residents while we still continue to subsidize the operation to a degree,” said Asm. Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex).
The sponsors also expressed concern over a clause in the contract that would allow WNET to walk away from the agreement if it does not meet its financial target or the state could provide the funding necessary to keep WNET on board. In addition, the state will continue spending roughly $2 million per year to maintain the broadcast licenses and transmission towers.
What this means for the future of NJN isn’t clear. State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff testified before a Senate committee yesterday that “NJN as we know it will cease to exist” if lawmakers reject the proposed deal. Employee layoffs would go forward, and the state would only do the minimum to maintain its FCC licenses, he said.
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