NJ Getting $332 million From Public Broadcast License Sales

Apr 14, 2017

New Jersey Statehouse

New Jersey has sold the licenses of two public broadcast television stations for $332 million.

A battle is shaping up on what should be done with the proceeds.

Mike Rispoli is the campaign director for the Free Press Action Fund that's urging the money go to rebuild journalism at the local level in New Jersey.

"The thousands of reporters that have been laid off, the dozens of newsrooms that have closed down, that doesn't just affect the journalism industry, that affects communities. They've told us that they feel invisible because no one is covering their community, they can't get information, so this is a matter of the public good."

Assembly Budget Committee vice-chairman John Burzichelli isn't convinced.

"I don't know how we would make that argument to take that money and scatter it about the landscape to support just general journalism because I don't know if that's place where taxpayer money should be."

New Jersey's public television network NJTV is seeking at least some of the proceeds to assure its long -term sustainability.

Burzichelli says that’s where some of the money should go. He says some proceeds should be used to make Statehouse proceedings readily available for broadcast.

“So things like budget hearings, things like the Bridgegate stuff, which in the end was televised to some extent, that it would be easier for those kinds of things to be televised and streamed through the internet with both audio and visuals so it would be easier to people to stay in touch with what’s taking place at the Statehouse.”

Burzichelli says reconciling the differing views won’t be easy.

“That’s a battle that’s going to take place over the next couple of weeks because the budget desperately needs revenue and this money is already counted in the governor’s proposal. So prying it away from the general budget is going to be a challenge.”