The operation of New Jersey Network television will be turned over to a subsidiary of New York public broadcaster WNET at the end of the month, unless lawmakers vote to reject the deal.
New Jersey Treasurer Andrew Eristoff told a Senate hearing Thursday if the Legislature blocks the transfer, the network will broadcast only the minimum programming required for the state to keep its license.
“The NJN that you know currently would cease to exist. There would be no nightly news or New Jersey generated or produced new content or public affairs programming,” he said.
Those remarks drew a sharp response from Democratic Assemblyman Pat Diegnan who sponsored a resolution against the deal.
“It’s like a kid saying I’m going to hold my breath until I get my way,” he said. “Hopefully the governor and the treasurer are mature enough not to pull the plug on the only statewide communication system in the state of New Jersey.”
Republican Sen. Joe Pennachio opposes a resolution that would scrap the deal.
“The days of public funding, spending $11 million a year for public funding TV and radio is over in New Jersey,” he said. “Now it’s just a question of how we do it.”
Diegnan says money to temporarily extend the current NJN could be included in the budget Democrats are drafting, but Eristoff indicated Gov. Chris Christie might veto that.
This disclosure: WHYY is purchasing five South Jersey NJN radio transmitters from the State of New Jersey.