TRENTON – Two resolutions were introduced Monday that express Democrats’ disapproval of Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff’s negotiated contract with WNET to take over the broadcasting operations long provided by state-subsidized New Jersey Network, which is expected to cease production at the end of the month.
Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan, (D-18), Middlesex, is sponsoring that chamber’s resolution, ACR201, and Sen. Loretta Weinberg, (D-37), Bergen, is sponsoring SCR166 for the upper chamber.
The resolutions cite the 2010 “New Jersey Public Broadcasting System Transfer Act,” that gives the Legislature the authority to disapprove a proposed contract within 15 days, via resolution.
“The contract is a joke,” Diegnan said today. “It’s a giveaway to WNET. The whole process has been flawed with very little openness throughout.”
Diegnan questioned the merits of the deal, especially after news reports revealed that the state could still be on the hook if WNET faces adverse economic conditions.
“I don’t understand the urgency of putting this deal together,” he said.
Christie said at a press conference two weeks ago that the state does not belong in the broadcasting business.
The resolutions state: “The ‘New Jersey Public Broadcasting System Transfer Act,’ … in part, authorizes the Legislature to disapprove a proposed contract within 15 days of receiving the contract if the Legislature so chooses. Any disapproval shall occur by the passage of a concurrent resolution by a simple majority vote of the full membership in each house within that time period.”
Possible reprieve for NJN?
Assemblyman John Burzichelli, (D-3), of Paulsboro, said a conceptual plan is being discussed within the Assembly Democratic Caucus to continue funding New Jersey Network for at least “a period of time.” The additional time, he said, would enable the state to find a better deal than the one with WNET negotiated by the treasurer.
He said he would prefer the network – whether it is NJN or another – to continue to have a presence in the Statehouse, and that news coverage continue in its present form.
“What’s being presented is not in the best interests of providing New Jersey-centric coverage,” Burzichelli said. “We’re squeezed between two major markets. NJN was created to serve a need and to fill a void.”
Therefore, he hopes that during the current budget discussions some deal could be worked out to preserve a New Jersey-based network where the political and news coverage doesn’t go by the wayside.