Watching the Assembly Budget hearing this morning on the dismantling of NJN, I was a bit surprised at the testimony of the State Treasurer when asked about continuation of the televising of committee hearings. His response was that it was not cost effective. In fact, NJN is a vital asset that keeps the electorate informed, and the sale of NJN will serve the Governor, but not the State. Furthermore, the method for selecting the “privatized’ group to take over the network was done secretly. We don’t know how many other entities filed applications, nor how they were evaluated by the Administration.
Preservation of programs like the NJN nightly news, Reporters Roundtable, and On the Record is essential. The New York group that is taking over has agreed to cover elections and State of the State addresses, but has made no commitment regarding committee hearings.
Growing up in Bergen County, I remember having access only to New York City news. The one exception was when my family vacationed at the Jersey Shore in the summertime, at which point I had access to Philadelphia news. However, I never had access to New Jersey news until NJN was created. My fear is that we will return to a period of designed ignorance.
WNET engaged in a similar venture when it took over public television on Long island. The effective result was that public information on the Island was almost non-existent. We cannot allow that to happen in New Jersey.
More importantly, are there people in State government who are uncomfortable with the transparency that occurs when executive and legislative activities are shared with the public openly? One of the duties of government is to keep the public informed. Transparency in government should be a goal that is not abandoned.
After considering all the information that has been shared by the State regarding “giving NJN away” to a private entity, I am more convinced than ever that the State Legislature should not support this transaction.