(TRENTON) — Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen John Wisniewski, Paul Moriarty Lou Greenwald and Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. to create a task force to study New Jersey Network’s future and protect the longtime investment by New Jersey taxpayers was approved Tuesday 71-6 by the Assembly.

Gov. Chris Christie has proposed eliminating state funding for NJN, but the three sponsors said his plan left unanswered questions about the state’s investment in the station and the value it holds to New Jersey viewers surrounded by New York and Philadelphia television networks.

“NJN has is a valuable state asset that has long served this state respectably with educational and public affairs programming that cannot be found anywhere else,” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). “We have think carefully about any plan for its future and ensure it protects taxpayers, workers and viewers.”

“NJN, though its studios and equipment in Trenton and Newark, four television transmitters, six low-power television translators, seven radio transmitters, plus public-broadcast licenses, is worth an estimated $200 million or more,” said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden). “That’s all taxpayer investment, yet some would have us just walk away from that without any clear plan. That’s irresponsible.”

“NJN has long provided a valuable service to New Jersey, and we need to protect not only what it offers to New Jersey viewers, but the major investment taxpayers have put into it,” said Greenwald (D-Camden). “This study is the fair and responsible thing to do for taxpayers, NJN’s dedicated workers and the state as a whole.”

“NJN is a valuable asset that cannot be handled with a slapdash plan,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “Whatever its future holds, it must be done the right way.”

The resolution (ACR-138) establishes the Legislative Task Force on Public Broadcasting, which is to consist of the following 10 members:

  • Three members appointed by the Senate President who shall be members of the Senate;
  • Two members appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate who shall be members of the Senate;
  • Three members appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly who shall be members of the General Assembly; and
  • Two members appointed by the Minority Leader of the General Assembly who shall be members of the General Assembly.

The task force will study, evaluate and develop recommendations relating to the governor’s proposal to transfer the assets, including operating licenses, and operations of the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority to an independent, not-for-profit organization.

The task force shall consider issues and concerns relating to such proposal, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The valuation of the assets of the authority, including hardware, licenses, real estate, and other property, and whether assets should be transferred to an organization without payment of monetary consideration;
  • The most appropriate schedule for the transfer of the authority’s operating licenses and allocation of assets, taking into account the approval process of the Federal Communications Commission and any other pertinent federal agency;
  • Whether the operations of the authority and the network function in the most efficient and cost effective manner;
  • The manner in which other states have transferred such assets and operations to an organization;
  • The future financing needs of the organization and the impact of any financing requirements on the annual state budget;
  • The continuation of New Jersey-focused programming if such proposal were to be approved;
  • The impact of the implementation of the proposal on the current employees of the authority;
  • Whether advances in broadcasting technology and their implications for the network and public broadcasting have been considered;
  • The development of new partnerships with the private sector and with other public sector interests; and
  • Whether alternative organizational or governance structures have been considered, including a single public or for-profit organization that is not a current licensee of a radio or television broadcasting station.

The task force is to issue a report of its study and findings to the Governor, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the General Assembly, the Minority Leader of the Senate, and the Minority Leader of the General Assembly by Oct. 15, including recommendations for any proposed transfer of the authority’s operations and assets to an independent, not-for-profit organization prior to the beginning of State fiscal year 2012.

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