ARLINGTON, VA — WETA, the flagship public media station for Washington, D.C., is expected to assume ownership and control of PBS NewsHour on July 1, 2014. The announcement was made today by Sharon Percy Rockefeller, president and chief executive officer of WETA, and Boisfeuillet “Bo” Jones Jr., president and chief executive officer of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. The WETA Board of Trustees unanimously voted to authorize the agreement on Tuesday, June 17, and now all parties have reached an agreement in principle and are proceeding to completion of the transfer.
“WETA is the natural long-term home for the PBS NewsHour,” said Rockefeller. “The NewsHour team has been our partner for more than 35 years, and we are thrilled to welcome them into this new, closer relationship. Together, we will uphold our unflinching commitment to excellence in journalism, producing the program every night with the same high standards our viewers expect and deserve.”
“Robin and I are delighted that our great friends at WETA will assume ownership of the PBS NewsHour,” remarked Jim Lehrer. “We thank our long-term partners at Liberty Media for their years of support and for agreeing to this transfer. We are so proud of the quality journalism produced by the NewsHour and MacNeil/Lehrer Productions and especially proud of the people who work so hard to bring NewsHour journalism to PBS viewers every night.”
Co-anchored by Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff, PBS NewsHour airs nationwide on more than 300 PBS stations.
The program is currently owned by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, the independent television production company founded in 1981 by journalists Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer. Liberty Media became a partner in MacNeil/Lehrer Productions in 1994, with MacNeil and Lehrer always maintaining editorial independence and control.
“The commitment to serious, long-form journalism has always been at the core of the PBS NewsHour and MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, and we are happy that our production partners at WETA will carry this mission forward,” commented MacNeil.
The MacNeil/Lehrer Productions partners are planning to contribute their ownership of PBS NewsHour and other assets to NewsHour Productions LLC, a new wholly-owned non-profit subsidiary of WETA. In addition to the NewsHour, the contribution will include MacNeil/Lehrer Productions archives, special projects, documentaries and civic forums. Employees of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions will become employees of NewsHour Productions LLC.
The intent to transfer was first announced in October 2013 as a plan to establish a long-term home for PBS NewsHour. While MacNeil stepped down from on-air duties in 1995 and Lehrer in 2011, they remained active in operation of the company.
Rockefeller and Jones have been leading their respective teams in negotiating details of the transfer. Jones will retire from MacNeil/Lehrer Productions after the transition. Rick Schneider will serve as president of NewsHour Productions LLC alongside his role as executive vice president and chief operating officer of WETA.
“It is great that this committed and talented staff will be able to continue to thrive in the steady hands of Sharon Rockefeller and WETA,” noted Jones.
“PBS NewsHour provides a critical service in informing the American public,” said Paula A. Kerger, president and CEO of PBS. “I know that under WETA stewardship, PBS NewsHour will continue to excel in this vital work, which is a key reason the public considers PBS the most trusted source for news and information.”
“High quality trusted journalism has always been a priority for public media,” said Pat Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “I know that under Sharon Rockefeller’s stewardship, PBS NewsHour will continue to deliver public media content that informs and educates the communities we serve.”
WETA has been involved in production of the PBS nightly news program since creation of The Robert MacNeil Report in 1975, when WETA served as the program’s Washington news studio. With MacNeil at WNET in New York and Lehrer at WETA, the program evolved as The MacNeil/Lehrer Report and then The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. When MacNeil stepped down from anchoring duties in 1995, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer made WETA its production home. Ifill and Woodruff were named co-anchors and managing editors of PBS NewsHour in 2013. As co-producer with MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, WETA has provided production facilities and services to bring PBS NewsHour to more than 300 PBS stations. The broadcast originates from the WETA Production Center studios in Arlington, Virginia.
# # #
About PBS NewsHour
For more than 35 years, millions of Americans and citizens of the world have turned to PBS NewsHour for the solid, reliable reporting that has made it one of the most trusted news programs in television. PBS NewsHour is seen by over four million weekly viewers and is also available online, via public radio in select markets, and via podcast. PBS NewsHour is a production of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions with WETA Washington, D.C., in association with WNET in New York. Major funding for PBS NewsHour is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and public television viewers. Major corporate funding is provided by BNSF, Charles Schwab and UnitedHealthcare with additional support from Carnegie Corporation of New York, the J. Paul Getty Trust, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Friends of the NewsHour and others. More information on PBS NewsHour is available at www.pbs.org/newshour. On social media, visit www.facebook.com/newshour on Facebook or follow @NewsHour on Twitter.
About WETA Washington, D.C.
WETA Washington, D.C., is one of the largest producing stations of new content for public television in the United States. WETA productions and co-productions include PBS NewsHour, Washington Week with Gwen Ifill, The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize, In Performance at the White House and documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including the premiere this September 14-20 of The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. More information on WETA and its programs and services is available at www.weta.org. On social media, visit www.facebook.com/wetatvfm on Facebook or follow @WETAtvfm on Twitter.