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Rhode Island’s public TV and radio operations announce they intend to merge

Downtown Providence, R.I. Photo (cc) 2019 by Kenneth C. Zirkel.

Executives at Rhode Island’s public television and radio operations said today that they intend to merge. Rhode Island PBS and The Public’s Radio will employ a combined staff of nearly 100, which, according to their announcement, will accelerate “their capacity to seamlessly deliver fresh, relevant content to existing and expanded audiences.”

Such a combination is not unusual. In Boston, GBH News — the local operation within public broadcasting behemoth GBH — includes both television and radio, with quite a bit of cross-pollination. In addition, among the projects that Ellen Clegg and I examine in our forthcoming book, “What Works in Community News,” is NJ Spotlight News, which represents a merger between a digital news outlet covering state politics and policy and the state’s public television station. The daily newscast features journalists from Spotlight, while the website integrates clips from the newscast.

Rhode Island PBS’s partnership with The Boston Globe’s Rhode Island operation will continue, according to the Globe’s Lylah Alphonse.

At one time, the news ecosystem in Rhode Island revolved around The Providence Journal, once a robust, nationally respected paper that has been decimated by Gannett, its corporate owner. Though the folks who remain at the Journal continue to do good work, The Public’s Radio, the Globe and a number of smaller outlets now compete for news and mindshare.

The merger must be approved by the FCC and the Rhode Island attorney general’s office. The full announcement is below.

The Public’s Radio and Rhode Island PBS Announce Plans to Merge

Pending Regulatory Approval, New Public Media Entity to Engage Audiences Across Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island PBS and The Public’s Radio announced today their plan to merge, creating an innovative and dynamic regional public media organization to best serve and support the communities of Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.

Pending federal and state regulatory approval, the unification of these trusted and respected institutions — with deep histories of informing, educating, entertaining, and engaging the public — will allow their combined teams of nearly 100 to collaborate, including the most talented reporters and storytellers in the region, accelerating their capacity to seamlessly deliver fresh, relevant content to existing and expanded audiences.

“We have believed for quite some time that our amazing organizations will be stronger and achieve even greater impact together,” said Dave Laverty, chair of the Rhode Island PBS Foundation Board. “By combining resources and talent, we can build on our respective traditions of trust and integrity to meet audiences where they are, across platforms, to deliver rich programming that is meaningful, accessible, and inclusive. By working together, we will create an opportunity to bring a more powerful and necessary public media voice to serve our community.”

Between the two organizations, they boast a number of awards and distinctions, including Emmys, Telly Awards, and recognition from the Public Media Journalists Association and Edward R. Murrow Awards.

“This is a tremendously exciting moment for our organizations and for the audiences we serve. Together, with our partners in public television, we will bring the incredible work of our teams into more homes and communities, and in new and different ways,” said Elizabeth Delude-Dix, chair of board of directors of The Public’s Radio, formerly known as Rhode Island Public Radio. “As a unified public media organization, we anticipate building new relationships and fostering deep partnerships while opening our audience’s eyes and ears to new experiences in the arts, sciences, humanities, and politics. A vibrant public media can create a stronger civic life and, together, we can better deliver on our missions.”

The proposed merger, which would join the ranks of a number of public media mergers nationwide, is contingent upon a regulatory process by the Federal Communications Commission and the state Attorney General’s office. In the meantime, viewers and listeners will continue to see and hear all their favorite programs.

“At The Public’s Radio, we want our stories to start conversations. Our thoughtfulness and independence are a core part of our mission and identity. These values are shared by our colleagues at Rhode Island PBS,” said Torey Malatia, president, chief executive officer, and general manager of The Public’s Radio. “Together, we want every listener, viewer, and follower — every supporter and every skeptic — to have access to the best information necessary to be engaged in their communities. That will be our north star as we take these exciting next steps forward to create an innovative and inclusive joint public media venture.”

“I have dedicated the last 25 years to Rhode Island PBS because I am a passionate believer in the value of public television,” said David Piccerelli, president of Rhode Island PBS. “The media landscape and the demands of our viewers have changed significantly in that time, and yet we continue to deliver award-winning programming. I am ecstatic about this merger because it enhances our ability to do just that: tell powerful stories and make an impact on our community.”

Malatia and Piccerelli will continue to serve as CEOs. Once the merger is completed, Rhode Island PBS and The Public’s Radio will launch an inclusive engagement process to help co-create a vision for a new combined public media organization focused on serving our diverse communities with quality journalism through broadcast and digital channels.

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1 Comment

  1. NahantJim Walsh

    First, it was great to see Lylah Alphonse’s name. I miss her and others from Beat the Press.

    Second, I worked in refugee camps along the Thai/Cambodian border in 1983, as the civil war raged and families fled. A reporter from the Providence Journal spent weeks with us covering the situation because Cambodian refugees were being transferred to Providence among other cities in the US. At the time, the Journal was a robust and full-fledged paper.

    Third, it is amusing that WGBH plays a pivotal role in the amusing and well done serial “Julia” on Max. According to the writers, Julia Child the source of the push to make WGBH what it is today.

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