ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr. was recently named the 2021 Legislator of the Year by the Jersey Access Group, an organization that fights for resources to support local broadcast news for all New Jersey communities. According to the organization, Payne earned the award for his strong work to increase local broadcast news options for New Jersey cities and fight to keep local stations on cable television systems.
“Too many New Jersey communities are denied local news options because they are split between the New York and Philadelphia media markets,” Payne said. “But New Jersey residents want to hear about news and events in their communities from local stations. It is an honor to be recognized for my fight to get my constituents and all New Jersey residents the local news they deserve.”
JAG praised Payne’s efforts to protect local broadcast news outlets, specifically mentioning the letter Payne wrote to the Federal Communications Commission last year asking it to reinstate the full franchise fees that cable companies pay to support local education and government programming, such as local city council and school board meetings. The FCC had allowed the cable companies to pay discounted fees, which are critical to funding these local stations.
JAG was created in March of 2000 by a small group of stations to establish more communication between all cable access stations in New Jersey. Today, it is a group of 61 stations that broadcasts content to more than 300,000 households in communities across the state. It is focused on the development of the state’s public, educational and governmental television stations.