A deal under which the State of New Jersey would turn over control of its WNJN-TV Montclair to New York’s WNET has been shot down by the State Assembly, and if the State Senate follows suit, the deal could be undone. What that would mean going forward remains up in the air, and similar blockades to the sale of New Jersey’s radio stations are not on the table.
The Assembly voted to block what would essentially be a management agreement with WNET (a form of LMA) under which it would run the station and would promise to broadcast a certain amount of news specifically aimed at New Jersey residents.
According to The Star-Ledger, companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate, and could be voted on while the nullification window is still open. It closes 6/28/11.
Democrats have called the move to farm out the state’s television to station to a New York entity the ultimate New Jersey joke. “Giving NJN to New York makes no sense,” said resolution sponsor Patrick Diegnan. “We need to make NJN stronger and not give it away.”
“WNET is uniquely qualified to maintain and grow the network for New Jersey and its citizens,” said NJ Governor Chris Christie (R) when the deal was announced. “WNET brings a wealth of resources to the table, including an award-winning Education department that provides video and other materials to teachers; an innovative Interactive department with a solid technology infrastructure and other back-office functions that will help NJN thrive. I am confident that WNET will continue to provide the excellent local and national public television programming that New Jersey residents have relied on for more than 40 years.”
However, an OpEd in the Herald News stated that Caucus Educational Corporation could be producing much of the information content, and said the company was more about new analysis, not news reporting, and said that’s not what the state needs. “CEC is not in the news gathering business; it is in the news analysis business. And it is the lack of the former that was the genesis for NJN decades ago. New Jersey was ill-served by the broadcast news media, treated as a stepchild of the New York and Philadelphia markets. That was the case 40 years ago. That is the case today.”
Proponents of the shift of control to WNET said that even if the deal is blocked, they will move ahead with associated employee layoffs, and will do only the bare minimum to meet FCC license requirements. Legislators blocking the deal, however, believe the State does have enough money to continue operating the station.
The Record notes that moves to sell radio licenses to noncommercial entities in New York and Philadelphia have not met with similar opposition.
RBR-TVBR observation: We understand that a lot of states are facing very tough times and are dealing with very tight budgets. However, we also believe in the power of broadcasting. Although the tab for public broadcasting may seem like low-hanging fruit to budget axing politicians, we don’t believe it eats up a sizable portion of most budgets. We would have to be extremely hard pressed to give up our broadcast assets. And this goes double in New Jersey, sandwiched as it is between New York and Philadelphia. Just sayin’.