Tears welled in longtime journalist Michael Aron’s eyes as he and colleague Jim Hooker said their goodbye on New Jersey Network’s final evening newscast from Trenton.The broadcast cut to a small room of empty cubicles. The lights turned off, and a small, blue NJN sign glowed on the back wall. The screen faded to black. “New Jersey Network. April 5, 1971 – June 30, 2011.”
New Jersey Senate Democrats failed Monday evening to block Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to let WNET New York run New Jersey public television, signaling a big win for the Republican governor and the demise of New Jersey Network after 40 years of broadcasting.
On Thursday, the New Jersey State Assembly rejected Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to turn over management of New Jersey public television to WNET New York, delivering a political blow to Christie while leaving the fate of the state’s public broadcasting network in limbo.
For 40 years New Jersey has justified having its own public broadcasting network by pointing to the limited reporting on its area by the Philadelphia and New York media. Now the state is moving to dismantle the New Jersey Network and entrust that reporting and its broadcast channels to public TV and radio stations in those two adjoining cities.
The new nonprofit group Channel 13 WNET incorporated to operate New Jersey’s public television network will not only pay nothing for the management rights, but will actually receive $4 million in fees and grants as part of the agreement.
New Jersey officials are completing a deal to give New Jersey Network’s television operation to a new nonprofit corporation run by WNET Channel 13, the PBS flagship station based in New York City. Treasury officials are expected to announce the agreement this week.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation that paves the way for the transition of the state-run New Jersey Network into a private independent entity. The governor suspended the planned layoffs of 130 NJN staffers, saying the actions will allow for “New Jersey-focused programming to continue uninterrupted” as a transition is completed.
Public broadcasting heavy-hitters WNET New York, WHYY Philadelphia and WNYC radio in New York are among the candidates being considered for prominent roles in a newly configured public broadcasting service that would replace the New Jersey Network.
If the governor’s office and state legislature don’t act before Jan. 1, when NJN stops receiving state funding, the four stations would go dark