WNET bid represents best hope of continuing New Jersey-centric TV, treasurer says

TRENTON –Any delay in turning NJN over to WNET “would be a very, very serious mistake,’’ the state treasurer said this morning during a hearing on the future of the state operated network.

Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff was responding to a question from Senate Budget Committee Chair Paul Sarlo about whether the state would consider a six-month delay to explore better options.

“I can’t speak to what-ifs,’’ other than to say that if the Legislature nixes the deal, then NJN as “we know it will cease to exist.  There will be no public subsidy and we will continue with employment actions to wind up the larger operations,’’ Sidamon-Eristoff said.

The treasurer also said he will not discuss any potential recommendation he may make to the governor over a possible line-item veto if the Legislature puts in the budget money for NJN.

Sidamon-Eristoff, also testified that $2.2 million in Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants and $2.5 million from lease revenue will go to the WNET entity that will take over NJN operations.

As for competing bids to take over the operation, the treasurer said Montclair State University’s bid also sought the lease revenues in its bid; the university’s bid has drawn attention from lawmakers who question whether it was a better deal.

He also told the Senate Budget Committee there was “minimal interest’’ in the equipment at NJN. “This equipment is antiquated, and at risk of failure,’’ he said.

He emphasized for the committee the deal with the New York-based  WNET deal represented “our best and frankly last opportunity to assure the future of high-quality, robust, and viable public television that serves New Jerseyans as New Jerseyans.”

He said Montclair State envisioned a fundraising campaign target of $12.3 million through 2014 compared to Public Media NJ’s $7.4 million fundraising plan.