Christie Upsets PBS Types by Suggesting State-Owned Broadcasting Seems 'Soviet'

Liberals who love public broadcasting are angry at Gov. Chris Christie for moving to fold the state’s public broadcaster, but let its operations be taken over by other public TV and radio entities in the area. Christie told interviewer Bob Hennelly on WNYC public radio that “state-owned operation of media ended with the Soviet Union,” even if that’s not really an end to public broadcasting in New Jersey:

BOB HENNELLY: You had a big win yesterday [Thursday]. But you did have one setback. The Assembly rejected your proposal to have WNET Channel 13 takeover the state's public broadcaster NJN. Critics of the deal say they are concerned WNET won't deliver the quality news product Michael Aron with NJN has been putting out. What's at stake with this deal?

CHRIS CHRISTIE: What’s at stake is, I really believed that the state-owned operation of media ended with the Soviet Union, and I don’t think we should be in the television business. I think its an inherent conflict of interest for us to be in the television business and for reporters to be state employees and I also think that the expense at this time is not justified into the budget.

Christie is streamlining funds for taxpayer-funded broadcasting. Other Republican governors, like Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Rick Scott in Florida, have cut state funding for public broadcasting, even as federal subsidies keep increasing. Christie quickly defended his decision to let New York PBS superstation WNET take over:

CHRISTIE: The Senate now has to consider this, and I hope that the Senate will decide, I hope, that this is a good deal, you know, and WNET, led by Neil Shapiro [a former NBC News president], is a premiere organization and they have made promises to us contractually, in writing, about the amount of New Jersey programming and the type of New Jersey programming that is going to be on the air. So I don’t think that anyone can validly say, given if they look at the NET deal, that it’s anything but a really good deal for the people of New Jersey.

They’re going to establish not only the outlets they have now but also a studio at Rowan University, put permanent cameras in the Senate and the Assembly so that people can watch that more frequently, as to what’s going on, on the floor of the legislature. And so, I just think this is much ado about nothing in the sense that these folks going forward are going to understand that everyone has to share the sacrifice.

HENNELLY: As you know, WNYC's parent New York Public Radio and WHYY in Philadelphia [also a public radio station] are set to acquire the nine NJN radio stations. Is that part of your proposal affected by a negative vote from the legislature?

CHRISTIE: No, it doesn’t have an impact. The only aspect of the veto on the deal is they’re just taking up the portion of the NET takeover of NJN. As I understand it, regardless of what happens, the purchase of the radio stations will continue to go forward.

This phaseout of NJN, however, didn't begin under Christie: it began under Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine.

PBS Bob Hennelly Chris Christie
Tim Graham's picture