New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, approved a budget that would allocate $5 million in state money to media projects in underserved communities.
Murphy is expected to sign a bill—passed by the New Jersey legislature in June—allowing for the creation of the Civic Information Consortium, an organization that would give grants to local media organizations serving communities with low-income residents and minorities.
The New Jersey Democrat has not yet signed the bill, which only one Republican legislator voted for, but he had already set aside the $5 million in funding for the project when he approved the state’s budget on Sunday.
As part of this project, the government would also select who is worthy of receiving the government grants.
The bill notes that of the 13 members on the consortium’s board of directors, the governor and the state legislature would appoint two members each and the state’s public universities would pick four members. The nine appointed members would be responsible for selecting four board members.
Applicants can apply for the government grants by sending a proposal to the board that would consist of partnering with one of the state’s five public universities and outlining “a clear benefit” to underserved local communities.
Despite the heavy government influence, the bill’s text claims that those receiving the grants “shall be independent from the influence of the State, a member university, and any other grantor or contributor of funds or outside source.”
Grant recipients would also receive confirmation in writing “that the grant or donation does not entitle the grantor or contributor to dictate or influence the content of any work the grantee produces or may produce,” according to the bill’s text.
The left-wing public interest group Free Press—which has at least one openly-progressive journalist on its board of directors—campaigned for the Civic Information Consortium for more than a year. The Free Press Action Fund launched a separate campaign last year for an earlier version of the bill which failed in the legislature.
A page on the Free Press website states that “companies owned by white men” own the media, and claims that “women and people of color are so often depicted in stereotypical terms or ignored altogether.”
Despite the interest group’s claim that it wants to keep local journalism alive, it bashed companies like Sinclair Broadcasting Group for not helping local media organizations stay on the air—even though the company is one of the largest owners of local broadcast stations in the United States.
Other left-wing advocacy organizations that supported the bill include Action 21 Immigrants Rights Advocacy Group, the Latin American Democratic Association, and LAP Latino Alliance for Progress.