Ilya Marritz covers business for WNYC.
New York Public Radio to Buy New Jersey Stations
Monday, June 06, 2011
New York Public Radio, the owner of WNYC, will acquire four stations from the NJN network, New Jersey’s public television and radio broadcaster: WNJY FM 89.3 Netcong, WNJP FM 88.5 Sussex, WNJT FM 88.1 Trenton and WNJO FM 90.3 Toms River.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said New York Public Radio will create a new public radio station focused on New Jersey news, and with a bureau in the Garden State.
In addition, the state is turning over operations and programming of the NJN TV network to WNET/Channel Thirteen, which will rename it NJTV. Christie said the goal is to end the state's role in public broadcasting.
"We think it's going to serve the people of the state of New Jersey extraordinarily well," Christie said. "And we think it also meets our goal of making sure that government is out of the broadcasting business. In my view that should have ended with the Soviet Union."
Christie said WNET won the bidding for the valuable TV license by demonstrating "the ability to deliver Jersey-centric programming, including a nightly news program."
WHYY, a public radio station in Philadelphia, will buy the state's other five public radio licenses for stations in South Jersey.
New York Public Radio has agreed to pay $1 million cash, and $1.8 million in non-cash compensation, including access to broadcast and website platforms to raise public awareness of significant issues, services and arts and cultural activities in the State of New Jersey on New York Public Radio’s radio stations and websites.
WHYY will pay $926,000 for the five south Jersey stations, plus $612,000 in non-cash payments.
State Republicans reacted positively to the news, while Democrats voiced concern.
"Just because the governor stands up and says, 'The deal is done,' doesn't mean that everyone should jump to rubber stamp it," said Barbara Buono, Senate Majority Leader.
The Communications Workers of America, which represents around 130 NJN employees, assailed the partner agreement with WNET, which acquired a Long Island station, WLIW, eight years ago. The union said WNET has failed to live up to its promise to provide Long Island-focused content.
"Now through a backroom deal those same folks are going to oversee NJN's takeover. New Jersey residents that depend on NJN for their news should be worried," said Patrick Kavanagh, president of CWA Local 1032.
WNET is defending its record. A spokeswoman said WLIW did shed staff in the wake of the recession, but it will soon launch a website and a TV program about Long Island affairs.
In 2009, WNYC acquired WQXR from The New York Times, paying $11.5 million.
The radio acquisitions are subject to review by the New Jersey Legislature and approval by the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority and the FCC.
The NJTV arrangement needs the approval of the state legislature.