When the state announced it was no longer going to operate the New Jersey Network, Montclair State University made a strong bid to move the television station to its campus. And while the university's bid was not the eventual winner, NJTV and the school announced Wednesday a collaboration to bring the station's flagship show to New Jersey.
NJTV announced its evening news program, "NJ Today," will relocate to the DuMont Television Center on the Montclair campus. John Servidio, general manager for the station, said the first broadcast done from the Montclair studio should happen before the end of the year. Currently, the show is produced at WNET's studios at Lincoln Center, in New York.
Jack Shannon, vice president for university advancement at Montclair, said the initial interest in the NJN assets was driven by a desire to supplement the school's broadcast communications department and ensure the station would provide news germane to the interests of the state.
"We were disappointed when we were not selected to manage the NJN television licenses, but our interest in achieving those other objectives remained the same," Shannon said. "President (Susan) Cole promptly reached out to Neal Shapiro at WNET and suggested that there could still be many great opportunities for Montclair State and his organization to partner together to make good on delivering high-quality public television."
NJTV will pay the university $400,000 per year to use the facilities. Shannon said the fee will cover all expenses relating to the production of the show, and the partnership will provide resources that will complement other Montclair projects.
According to NJTV, the contract will last three years, with subsequent two-year renewal periods.
The studios at the DuMont Center were upgraded to HD quality, including cameras and switchers, in 2009, and the school has continued to make upgrades, including a redone set.
Servidio said negotiations began in July, and obstacles like scheduling the shoots with students involved in production and acquiring the right equipment for the DuMont Center's infrastructure kept the partnership from formally being announced until now.
"We are all going to have to learn to live together, much like any newlyweds have to," Shannon said.
"Montclair State wanted to do this, and because they wanted to be partnered with us and produce a show out of there, everything else fell into place really easy," Servidio said. "We're able to work as a partner, and if there is something needed or something additional is needed to get the show on the air or make it a better show, I think they're totally open to that approach."
Servidio also said the move from Lincoln Center to Montclair should take a few weeks, and the school already has installed a fiber-optic network in order to have the bandwidth necessary to distribute the content.
NJTV staff will be involved in the classroom at the university, and will provide mentoring opportunities. Servidio said the station is glad to have a new pipeline for future employees, and will begin interviewing graduate students Friday in order to fill production internships for next semester.
Servidio said the station also is looking to partner with other schools in the state to act as "satellite bureaus" to provide additional content for the network, as well as put computer-controlled cameras on eight to 12 campuses, so live one-on-one interviews can be produced from multiple locations.