N.J. bill proposes using spectrum auction cash for news consortium

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A bill in the New Jersey State Legislature seeks to use a portion of the state’s proceeds from the FCC spectrum auction for a fund to support local journalism.

The state sold the spectrum used by public TV stations WNJN and WNJT in the FCC auction for $332 million. Gov. Chris Christie has not yet revealed whether any of the money will be set aside for public broadcasting.

Democratic majority leaders in the state assembly and senate have proposed that a total of $100 million — $20 million a year for five years — be used to create a consortium to bolster news and information, particularly in underserved communities, according to Free Press. The media-reform nonprofit launched a campaign last year to create such a fund.

The Civic Information Consortium bill proposes a partnership among Montclair State University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rowan University and Rutgers University, along with other nonprofits and community organizations. The consortium would pay for projects including hyperlocal media outlets, news fellowships and civic technology initiatives.

“This is an opportunity in the digital age to create a public-interest media system taking advantage of digital technology that could be innovative and second-to-none in terms of serving local news needs across the whole country,” said Chris Satullo, former VP of news at Philadelphia’s WHYY, at a Free Press meeting Tuesday about the consortium covered by myCentralJersey.com. Satullo is consulting with Free Press on the consortium campaign, according to the news site.

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