Verizon will close its Fios1 News channel in November, leading to the layoff of almost 150 employees of the RNN.
Fios 1 provided local news coverage for Verizon cable subscribers in New Jersey.
The Journal News, Gannett’s Westchester-based newspaper, was first to report the closure.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said that the shutdown underscores the immediate need for a university-based news New Jersey Civic Information Consortium.
Funding for the consortium, created in a bill Weinberg sponsored, supports research and innovation in media and technology. Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill last August, but froze $1 million in funding by executive order after the recent state budget was passed.
“The cutbacks in news coverage and the realignment of the journalism industry have a real life impact on civic engagement and the ability of the public to be fully informed,” said Weinberg. “We don’t want to see the shutdown of Fios1, but we also don’t want to allow the civic consortium to lay dormant. The consortium is intended to promote innovation in the media and train a new generation of journalists to work in a rapidly-changing industry.”
A $5 million appropriation was not used in 2018, and while $1 million was frozen an additional amount of up to $1 million remains in place.
The consortium includes the College of New Jersey, Montclair State, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rowan and Rutgers.
“A representative democracy is dependent on civic engagement and a functioning news sector plays a vital role,” said Senator Weinberg. “This consortium of universities will be incubators for innovation in the media. The program is important for the future of journalism in New Jersey and for the health of our democracy.”