Saying that New Jersey doesn't need and cannot afford its own television station, Gov. Chris Christie on Monday announced a deal that calls for transfer operations of the state-owned New Jersey Network to WNET-TV in New York.
New Jersey would keep ownership of the broadcasting license, which can be renewed or changed under the five-year deal.
NJN would be known as NJTV and would continue to provide a nightly news broadcast and live broadcasts of major Statehouse events -- including the governor's budget addresses and State of the State speeches -- as well as live election night coverage.
The agreement also calls for 20 hours of weekly New Jersey-centric broadcasting to be provided by the Caucus Educational Corp, headed by Steve Adubato Jr., the son of a major political powerbroker in Newark.
Christie also announced that all of New Jersey Network's radio licenses will be sold to Philadelphia's WHYY and New York Public Radio, which operates WNYC and WQXR. WHYY would pay just under $1 million for five licenses in the southern part of the state, while New York Public radio would pay $1.8 million for licenses in Trenton, Toms River, Sussex and Netcong.
“We are looking forward to this new partnership, which we think will serve the people of New Jersey extraordinarily well,” Christie said. “It also meets our goal of making sure government is out of the broadcasting business. In my view that should have ended with the Soviet Union. It's ending here in New Jersey a little later than the fall of the wall in Berlin, but we're getting there.”
The agreement with WNET, the nation's largest PBS station, will mean the loss of all 130 jobs at the station.
Neal Shapiro, WNET president, said that 15 to 20 people will be needed to help produce New Jersey content. He said there would be an office located somewhere in New Jersey but that no decision has been made on a location.
A bill signed last year allows for the radio license sales, but the TV transfer requires legislative approval. A hearing was scheduled in the Assembly on Thursday, but some lawmakers were
Assembly Budget Chairman Lou Greenwald, D-Voorhees, who served on the Legislative Task Force on Public Broadcasting, said a closer look at the financial details and fundraising needs are warranted.
“Ensuring employees received equitable and fair consideration was also vital, and I'm not convinced that's happening under this proposal,” Greenwald said.
Unions began running radio ads encouraging people to call their lawmakers to push for the state to maintain control over content.
NJN was incorporated in 1968 and went on the air in 1971. Its purpose was to provide New Jersey-specific programming for viewers living between the major New York City and Philadelphia markets.
Its TV and radio licenses can be sold only to other public television stations or religious broadcasters.