Gov. Chris Christie (R) of New Jersey has made no secret of his desire to take his state out of the broadcast business, and while it intends to keep the license to WNJN-TV Monclair, it is turning to WNET in New York City to program the station.
Christie has been trying to cut the state’s budget, and the belief is that it will be cheaper to turn the station over to a qualified third party than to continue and run the station itself.
The arrangement is conditioned on the station’s continued broadcast of key statewide news program NJ Today. Its current four-times-a-day broadcast schedule will be maintained. A scaled-back summertime version of the show will be aired at first, with a “more robust” program coming in the fall.
“WNET is uniquely qualified to maintain and grow the network for New Jersey and its citizens,” Christie said. “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.”
“We are pleased with the Governor’s confidence in our ability to add value to New Jersey’s public television presence,” said WNET President and CEO Neal Shapiro. “It has been a challenging few years for public television, and all media companies around the country. Consolidation has become the way to streamline operations while continuing to serve the community. WNET has used innovation, ingenuity and partnerships to withstand the current challenges and enhance our value to viewers. We are ready and willing to do the same for New Jersey public television.”
According to reports, CPB will transfer $2M in funding that used to go to the state to WNET to be used to keep WNJN up and running, and WNET will also benefit from about $2M in annual income from tenants on the station’s broadcast tower.
According to the NJ.com, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) is critical of the plan and is expected to seek an FCC study of the arrangement.