Alternatives under discussion in the event of NJN veto

If the state Senate can find a vote to veto the proposed transfer of New Jersey Network to a New York station, the network’s foundation would operate the station and rely on outside programming, according to one plan put forth by Assembly members trying to save the network.

According to Assemblyman John Burzichelli, turning operations over to the foundation is one recommendation under discussion.  A second option would continue the transfer to WNET, while turning news programming over to the foundation.

“The foundation route allows New Jersey people to run the show,” Burzichelli said.

The foundation was an original bidder for the operations, but was edged out by WNET. 

Alternatives to the WNET deal could become moot later tonight if the Senate fails to come up with the votes to approve a resolution vetoing the deal.  WNET is scheduled to take over operations on July 1, changing programming and personnel in the process.

Last week, the Assembly passed the veto measure 45 to 30 and until today the measure seemed all but a formality in the Senate.

But sources say administration officials spent time this weekend reaching out to legislators to talk about the merits of the deal.  At least one legislator reportedly received a call from Steve Adubato Jr., president of Caucus Education Corp., which will provide news content to the WNET operation.

Democrats have included $2 million in their proposed budget to keep NJN operating in the event the WNET deal is nixed.  Lawmakers say the money would give the Legislature and the Treasurer time to negotiate a new deal that is acceptable to all parties.  It’s unknown if the governor would use his line item veto to remove the funding, however, last week, State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff said if the WNET deal fell through, the station “as we know it would 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.

As part of the five-year agreement with the state, the new station will provide a nightly newscast every night, will continue to present live coverage of major Statehouse addresses and will be required to program at least 20 hours of New Jersey-centric programming per week.  The new network would $2.2 million in federal grants currently provided to NJN and another $2.7 million in revenue the state collects from tower leases. 

Under the terms of the agreement WNET could void the deal if the organization’s it’s funding falls below $4 million or if its overall revenue pictur e- which would include fundraising, falls to less than 75 percent of its budgted amount.  In either case, the state would be on the hook for further funding.

The state would have six months to renegotiate the contract or find another entity to take over the network.

Several lawmakers have decried the deal as a giveaway that leaves the state on the fiscal hook.

Alternatives under discussion in the event of NJN veto