PBS Responds to FAIR Petition Regarding Replacement Programming for Now and Bill Moyers Journal

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Steve Rendall
srendall@fair.org
Tel: 212-633-6700 x13

PBS Responds to FAIR Petition Regarding Replacement Programming for Now and Bill Moyers Journal

More than 14,000 have called for hard-hitting public journalism

NEW YORK - FAIR presented a petition with more than 11,000 names to PBS on January 13, calling for worthy replacements for the exiting programs Bill Moyers Journal and Now. In all, 14,462 people signed the petition, including names added after it was delivered to PBS.

In a January 22 response, PBS described its new Friday night offering, Need to Know, but gave no indication of whether the program will continue the hard-hitting tradition of its predecessors.

Corporate Communications director Jan McNamara wrote that "PBS is
committed to maintaining the highest level of news and public affairs
programming" and that "changes to our current schedule are necessary to
make it possible for us to experiment with different formats and
programming content, both on-air and online."

The new program, Need to Know,
will be an "integrated broadcast and online current affairs project"
that "will feature documentary-style field reports, both domestic and
international, short features and studio-based interviews and
conversation to complement and advance the produced reports."

Whether Need to Know will uphold Now and Moyers Journal's
commitment to independent, hard-hitting journalism and analysis was not
addressed by McNamara, and remains to be seen when the show debuts in
May.

FAIR thanks all the activists who
added their voices to the petition. McNamara's full response can be
read below.

*****

Dear Mr. Naureckas:

Thank you for delivering your petition and its 11,172 signatures regarding FAIR's concerns about PBS's news and public affairs schedule.

PBS is
committed to maintaining the highest level of news and public affairs
programming. Changes to our current schedule are necessary to make it
possible for us to experiment with different formats and programming
content, both on-air and online, while continuing to serve the evolving
needs of the American public. We do not have the financial resources to
both maintain our current program lineup and develop new content
offerings.

On January 13, at the Television Critics Association in Los Angeles, PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger announced that an integrated broadcast and online current affairs project entitled Need to Know will launch in May 2010.

During this press conference, Ms. Kerger described Need to Know as one of the key components of a PBS news
and public affairs initiative, the first phase of which focuses on
improving service to the public in three areas--on-air, online and
service to communities through local stations.

Viewers saw the first phase of changes to the broadcast line-up with the debut of the redesigned PBS NewsHour in December and the revamped Nightly Business Report in early January. In the spring, as Need to Know premieres, PBS will
begin aggregating all of its news and public affairs content along with
offerings from editorial partners in an online "supervertical" site at PBS.org, as well as distributing the content across the Web. PBS is
also joining leading public media entities in a partnership to develop
a local/national system to support stations in responding more
effectively to the gaps in local journalism created by the upheaval in
the newspaper industry.

Each week's online
story development will culminate in the weekly one-hour broadcast,
curated from the week's reporting by the various beat teams. The
broadcast will feature documentary-style field reports, both domestic
and international, short features and studio-based interviews and
conversation to complement and advance the produced reports.

Need to Know will air on PBS stations nationwide on Friday evenings, joining PBS's acclaimed public affairs lineup, including PBS NewsHour and Nightly Business Report, as well as Frontline and Washington Week With Gwen Ifill.

We appreciate your interest in PBS.

Sincerely,

Jan McNamara
Director, Corporate Communications
PBS

###

FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.

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