Legislation Seeks to Protect Residents’ Investment in Network, Maintain Jersey-Centric Focus
TRENTON – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senators Jeff Van Drew, Nia H. Gill, and Teresa Ruiz to create a task force to study Governor Christie’s proposal to slash funding for New Jersey Network and transition it from a government-run entity, paving the way for control by a not-for-profit organization.
The measure (SCR-113) would ensure that residents’ investment in the network is protected, and that the Jersey-centric programming focus is maintained in the event of a transition.
“NJN offers programming that is unique to New Jersey, from in-depth coverage of public policy to educational and cultural programs focusing exclusively on the Garden State. Any transition of the network from a state-run entity must ensure the spirit of the station is maintained for our residents who rely on it,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic).
“Additionally, we must be sure the millions of dollars in public funding that has supported NJN since its inception does not go out the window as a result of a hasty decision to surrender New Jersey�s stake in the network,” Van Drew added.
Governor Christie proposed slashing the network’s $3.9 million funding nearly in half in the FY 2011 budget, appropriating $1.9 million. The proposal anticipates the elimination of all 129 employees.
“New Jersey Network went on the air in 1971, three years after Governor Hughes signed legislation creating the authority and following voters’ approval of a multi-million-dollar bond to finance the construction of station infrastructure,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex). “We can’t afford to dismantle the network without a detailed proposal that protects the investment residents have made in it over the years.”
The Senate Concurrent Resolution would establish the 10-member “Legislative Task Force on Public Broadcasting,” consisting of five members of the Senate and five members of the Assembly. The panel would study and develop recommendations relating to the governor’s proposal to transfer the network’s assets, including operating licenses and operations of NJN from state control.
The task force would consider issues such as: the value of the assets of the authority; the most appropriate schedule for the transfer of the authority’s operating licenses and allocation of assets; whether the operations of the authority and the network function in the most efficient and cost effective manner; and the continuation of New Jersey-focused programming if such proposal were to be approved, among others.
It would be required to issue a report to the Governor and the Legislature by Oct. 15, including recommendations for any proposed transfer of the authority’s operations and assets prior to the beginning of State Fiscal Year 2012.
“Any major change to the network must be carefully studied to make sure there are no unanswered questions,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “This task force will ensure that we know the full value of the network and that we have a clear understanding of how the state would divest of its interest in the authority’s assets, including broadcasting towers and network studios in Newark, Trenton and Camden, should the Governor’s proposal move forward.”