Jun 14, 2010

Paper examines NJN's Blumenthal and his private nonprof restructuring plan

New Jersey Network Interim Director Howard Blumenthal and his leadership of Philadelphia's indie pubcaster MiND TV (WYBE)  is the focus of a story Sunday (June 13) in the Bergen, N.J., Record. His "bold privatization plan" (PDF) to transfer the TV/radio network to a nonprofit would "unload a taxpayer asset with an estimated value of $200 million," the paper says. During his time as CEO of MiND TV, it paid a fine for airing commercials; Blumenthal said an oversight by busy staff members led to the fine. Also, net assets for MiND dropped 16 percent. But Douglas Eakeley, chairman of the NJN Foundation, supports Blumenthal and his plan, which has been called a "radical restructuring" by the  Record. "As we went to the private sector for capital infrastructure improvements or the like, the fairly frequent response was: 'Well, you're asking us to repair the roof of the house that the state owns,'" Eakeley said. Being linked to the state "actually was an impediment to raise funds." The network will find out by July 1 if it will get $4 million cut from its state funding, as Gov. Chris Christie has proposed.

UPDATE: An NJN spokesperson corrected details we published earlier here: Blumenthal continues as part-time g.m. of WYBE while handling the job at NJN. The FCC fine cost WYBE $2,500, not $25,000. NJN said the estimate of NJN's assets was calculated by the employee union, which opposes the spinoff, and not by the newspaper.

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