Governor Chris Christie announced on June 6 that the state would turn over the television operations of the New Jersey Network to WNET, a public broadcasting station based in New York City, for a period of five years.
WNET (Channel 13) will run the network through a subsidiary called New Jersey Public Media. The new station name will be NJTV.
The deal — which needs to be ratified by the New Jersey Legislature — makes good on a longstanding promise by Christie to ween New Jersey out of the public broadcasting business. If ratified, the deal will take effect on July 1.
According to the deal, NJTV will be required to continue the NJN format of New Jersey-focused programming, including a weekday newscast. The station also must broadcast (live) significant State House events, election night coverage, and a Sunday morning public affairs show.
WNET will take over NJN’s $2.2 million federal subsidy from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It also will pay about $2 million to rent NJN’s broadcast tower for the duration of the deal.
NJN employs about 120, all of whom will lose their state jobs. According to the deal, they will be allowed to reapply for posts at the new entity. Some positions, according to WNET, are expected to be cut for budgetary reasons.
Critics of the deal worry that WNET will not live up to its obligations. A coalition called Keep the NJ in NJN released a statement following the June 6 announcement that WNET has yet to live up to similar obligations related to its 2003 deal to take over WLIW in Long Island.
Christie stated at a press conference following the announcement that the deal will save New Jersey taxpayers the burden of carrying the station (which runs on about $8 million a year) and lessen the perception that NJN has been a state-run media outlet.
The deal also includes a series of radio licences owned by the state. Four will be sold to New York Public Radio, which operates WNYC and classical music station WQXR, for about $1 million, plus another $1.8 million for costs such as outstanding advertising. The remaining five will be sold outright to WHYY, a Philadelphia-based public broadcasting company, for about $1.5 million, including debt costs.
#b#New Jersey Network#/b#, 25 South Stockton Street, CN 777, Trenton 08625-0777; 609-777-5000; fax, 609-633-2921. Janice Selinger, acting director.