TRENTON – Last night, the state Senate failed to block Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to transfer operations of New Jersey’s public television network to a subsidiary of New York-based WNET/Channel 13.
Opponents of the deal fell one vote short in their bid to reject it, even though a similar resolution passed in the Assembly last week.
Public Media NJ will begin operating the new NJTV network, which replaces NJN, on Friday. It will be required to produce a nightly news show, but does not have to establish a New Jersey studio or place reporters around the state. New Jersey will continue to own – and pay for – the television broadcast permits. If revenue does not meet minimum expectations, Public Media NJ can opt out of the contract.
“I’m disheartened that the Senate could not muster up enough votes to join us in vetoing this contract. It is simply not in the best interests of our state to give away our broadcasting licenses to an out-of-state entity while requiring New Jersey taxpayers to continue footing the bill,” said Asm. Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “WNET is the public broadcasting station for the New York metropolitan area. It’s illogical and fiscally irresponsible to continue subsidizing this operation to a degree without a guarantee that WNET will devote the resources necessary to continue covering the issues that are important to our residents.”
“This deal undermines democracy and keeping the people of New Jersey informed,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The small amount of money that may be saved will not outweigh the long term harm that will be done to the state of New Jersey.”
“NJN is as much a part of New Jersey as Island Beach State Park, Rutgers University, or the Princeton Battlefield. Currently, NJN’s state subsidy is only $11 million. We can spend $180 million to bail out the Xanadu mall but we can’t spend a fraction of that to help one of New Jersey’s great assets?” he asked.
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