One up, one down: New Jersey station receives state funding, Pennsylvania’s lose appropriation

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As state legislatures finalize budgets with the start of the new fiscal year, one public broadcaster has gained a new appropriation while stations in another state have lost theirs.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a fiscal year 2022 budget into law Tuesday that includes $1 million for NJ PBS. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s governor signed a budget that zeroed out support for the state’s stations.

“We are very pleased that the State of New Jersey has made an appropriation for NJ PBS in the most recent budget,” said NJ PBS GM John Servidio in a statement. “We look forward to utilizing those funds to serve our citizens and communities across the state.”

New Jersey ended appropriations for public broadcasting a decade ago amid budgetary concerns linked to the economic recession. The new appropriation will go to Public Media NJ, a nonprofit formed in 2011 to take over NJ PBS’ operations.

A station spokesperson previously told Current that uses of the funds could include improving NJ PBS’ digital and social media content, upgrading equipment, increasing community engagement programs and facilitating the transition to ATSC 3.0. The funding may also support improved marketing and data analytics tools and developing programs that focus on New Jersey’s business, technology and arts communities.

NJ PBS’ license is held by the state of New Jersey. The station has received grants from the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority over the past decade for upgrading equipment and digitizing its archives, but those funds came from selling spectrum and separate state agreements.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a FY22 budget Wednesday with no support for the state’s public broadcasters.

Since 2019, the state had given $750,000 annually to Pennsylvania PBS, a group of seven stations. The funding, divided evenly among the stations, supported technology needs and operating expenses. It also covered program-related fees, equipment acquisitions and production and distribution costs.

“After serving Pennsylvanians with enriching, entertaining and educational programming and services during this greatest time of need, we are disappointed that the legislature removed funding for Pennsylvania PBS stations from the Commonwealth’s budget,” the stations said in a collective statement. “Although we wish the legislature had continued supporting the meaningful work of Pennsylvania PBS this fiscal year, we will passionately carry on fulfilling our mission to our neighbors, and we will work to restore the state funding for future budgets.”

Wolf’s proposed budget, released Feb. 2, zeroed out the line item for public media funding, but station leaders told Current at the time that they expected to receive the funding.

Thirty-five states give direct funding to public broadcasters.

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