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(TRENTON) – Assemblymen Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. and John Burzichelli, two of the prime sponsors of a measure passed by the Assembly last week that would void the contract recently negotiated by the Christie administration to give away the state’s public broadcasting rights, issued the following statement today after the Senate failed to pass an identical measure needed to veto the contract:
“I’m disheartened that the Senate could not muster up enough votes to join us in vetoing this contract. It is simply not in the best interests of our state to give away our broadcasting licenses to an out-of-state entity while requiring New Jersey taxpayers to continue footing the bill,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “WNET is the public broadcasting station for the New York metropolitan area. It’s illogical and fiscally irresponsible to continue subsidizing this operation to a degree without a guarantee that WNET will devote the reDests necessary to continue covering the issues that are important to our residents.”
“This is the wrong deal at the wrong time,” said Burzichelli (D-Salem/Cumberland/ Gloucester). “Dollar for dollar, this deal does not save New Jersey enough money to make up for what we’re sacrificing. Under the contract negotiated, we may very well end up subsidizing WNET in the end. If that’s the case, we are better off devoting our reDests to preserving NJN or seeking some sort of compromise that will better protect the interests of our taxpayers.”
The resolution (ACR-201/SCR-166) would have vetoed the contract recently negotiated by the State Treasurer to turn over the television operations of the state’s public broadcasting system, currently operated by New Jersey Network Public Television and Radio, to Public Media NJ, Inc., a subsidiary of WNET.
The sponsors expressed concern over a clause in the contract that would allow WNET to walk away from the agreement if it does not meet its financial target or the state could provide the funding necessary to keep WNET on board. In addition, the state will continue spending roughly $2 million per year to maintain the broadcast licenses and transmission towers.
The “New Jersey Public Broadcasting System Transfer Act,” passed in 2010, authorizes the Legislature to disapprove a proposed contract within 15 days of receiving the contract if the Legislature chooses. In order to disapprove of the contract, a concurrent resolution must be passed by a simple majority vote in each house within that time period. The Assembly passed the measure by a vote of 45-30 last week.
This resolution rejects the contract because WNET, the public broadcasting station for the New York metropolitan area, is not a New Jersey centric entity that could reliably continue to devote future reDests to covering important issues to New Jersey, and to employing New Jerseyans in such programming. The sponsors stressed that they do not have faith that employment, as well as news coverage and other programming, will be maintained at high standards under the contract.