N.J. League of Municipalities urges careful consideration of proposed NJN/WNET deal

The N.J. League of Municipalities president urged the Assembly Budget Committee today or “diligently review’’ the proposed transfer of NJN

The N.J. League of Municipalities president urged the Assembly Budget Committee today or “diligently review’’ the proposed transfer of NJN to WNET.

In prepared remarks before the committee that is scrutinizing the deal announced earlier this week, League President Mayor Chuck Chiarello of Buena Vista Township praised NJN for its many years of informing and educating state residents.

He urged the Legislature to carefully look at the deal and ensure that state residents will still have quality New Jersey-focused programming.

Complete text of prepared testimony:

Chairman Greenwald and Members of the Assembly Budget Committee, thank you for allowing me to comment on a matter of extreme importance to the people of our State – the future of New Jersey Public Broadcasting. I am Mayor Chuck Chiarello of Buena Vista Township, President of the New Jersey League of Municipalities.

On my own behalf and on behalf of Mayors all around our Garden State, I want to thank the leadership and staff of New Jersey Network (NJN) for all that they have done, over many years, to inform, educate, entertain and enrich the people of our State with stories that, without them, would never have been told.

NJN television and radio stations have provided the people of our State with news, information and perspectives on New Jersey issues that were not available anywhere else. That coverage has enhanced our appreciation for the history and cultures of people and places throughout New Jersey, our awareness of New Jersey political and public policy developments, and our sense of community and common purpose. Loss of New Jersey centered content, both present and future, carried on those outlets would jeopardize all of that.

Before the birth of NJN, New York stations dominated the airwaves in the North, and Philadelphia stations controlled broadcasting in the South. For years, the people of New Jersey could only consider themselves second class citizens of the electronic media markets. New Jersey issues and events, when they were covered at all, seemed almost an afterthought on the evening news. And any thoughtful analysis of New Jersey public policies and politics was virtually non-existent on either television or radio. Alone among the Fifty States, New Jersey had no television station to call its own.

But 40 years ago, on April 5, 1971, WNJT in Trenton went on the air, to be joined by three other NJN television stations over the next two years. NJN’s radio network began operation on May 20, 1991, when WNJT-FM in Trenton signed on; eight other stations would be established over the following seventeen years.

Those stations have reported on events that would never be covered by New York or Philadelphia stations. If not for NJN, most of our fellow citizens would never know how fine the school is in Stockton, or about the train in Richland Village in Buena Vista Township, or the new Dispatch Center in Monmouth County or medical, educational or technical breakthroughs in the Garden State, or about the Highlands or the Pinelands. They would never have learned about our farmers, our teachers or construction on the Turnpike.

Whatever the future holds for those stations, New Jersey citizens need to be assured of quality New Jersey focused and New Jersey based programming. That must be the primary consideration of State policy makers determining the future of the network.

Accordingly, we appreciate the Governor’s efforts to protect that resource in the proposed television contract with WNET. We were happy to hear that the proposed contract guarantees “Increased and enhanced overall New Jersey centric programming, including arts, culture, and public affairs; (and) Maintaining high quality public affairs programming, including a nightly news broadcast, live broadcasts of significant State House events such as State of the State and Budget Message, live Election Night coverage as part of comprehensive election coverage as well as a Sunday morning New Jersey public affairs programs.” We encourage the Legislature to diligently review that contract, as well as the proposed future of our public radio stations, in order to ensure the same high quality product that has been professionally and passionately delivered to our State by the folks at NJN. We would like to know that whether it’s Cape May Point or Highpoint – Bergen County or Salem – Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe or Roosevelt – that all points in New Jersey are given the attention that they deserve.

Again, on behalf of those who serve their fellow citizens in local government, I want to thank those who have served their fellow citizens at NJN. We sincerely appreciate your fairness, your expertise, your professionalism and your evident passion for your work and for our State. You have set a high standard for those who may follow. In their deliberations on the future of public broadcasting in New Jersey, we urge State policy makers to judge future arrangements by that standard. N.J. League of Municipalities urges careful consideration of proposed NJN/WNET deal