Originally published: June 7, 2011
Last updated: June 7, 2011 - 4:07pm
Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), saying he wasn't elected to be "programmer in chief," is taking New Jersey out of the broadcasting business. NJN, a television network formed in 1968, will be broken off from the state and handed over to WNET, the New York public media station. WNET will get federal subsidies to continue running New Jersey programming.
It's not a clean break. The state will still own the license and will revisit the contract in five years. Gov Christie said that shouldn't be seen as a specter looming in the news decisions that are made. He described it as a tool necessary to make sure the new network lives up to its contractual obligations.
There will be nightly news shows and at least 20 hours of "New Jersey-centric" coverage provided by a veteran broadcaster whose father is a major figure in Newark politics. Meanwhile, the licenses of NJN's radio network are being sold to other stations. Gov Christie said he had been uncomfortable since taking office about subsidizing a news organization whose employees were state workers charged with independently covering state government. "In my view that should have ended with the Soviet Union," he said. "It's ending here in New Jersey a little bit later than the fall of the wall in Berlin, but we're getting there." The change has rankled some lawmakers and activists, who said they feared a station would be more beholden to fund-raisers and donors. They worried that news coverage would suffer with a potentially reduced staff.
The deal also shone a spotlight on the Adubato family of Newark, which continues to play a major role in ward-level politics. Steve Adubato Jr. will provide programming for the new station, which will be called NJTV. The evening news will be called "NJ Today." Adubato anchors several public-affairs interview shows and runs a communications-training company. His father, Steve Adubato Sr., is a longtime Democratic power broker in Newark who is aligned with Gov Christie, a Republican, most notably on education. Asked about concerns over the independence of his reporting and programming, the younger Adubato said his Emmy awards and his work speak for themselves.
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