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Rhode Island PBS and The Public’s Radio move forward in planned merger

 

Rhode Island’s two public broadcasters, Rhode Island PBS and The Public’s Radio, are moving forward with their proposed merger. Today, Attorney General Peter Neronha announced approval for the move, a key regulatory hurdle for the merger of the two organizations.

“Public media contributes uniquely and substantially to the quality of life in Rhode Island, and its ongoing vitality is critical,” said Neronha. “For many Rhode Islanders, PBS and The Public’s Radio have been important local sources of media and as a new combined entity, they will be able to sustain the value they contribute to our state.”

Public media organizations in Rhode Island are governed by a law called the Public Radio Conversions Act, requiring attorney general approval for certain acquisitions. Now that Neronha has approved the move, the organizations will file with the Secretary of State’s office to complete the formal incorporation.

“This is an exciting milestone,” said Elizabeth Delude-Dix, chair of the board of directors of The Public’s Radio.  “Our impact will be increased and our audience expanded as we take these next exciting steps forward.” 

The organizations have yet to announce a name for their combined entity or a new CEO to lead the combined organization. In the interim, Rhode Island PBS CEO David Piccerelli and The Public’s Radio CEO Torey Malatia will serve as co-CEOs.  

During public comment over the merger, Providence Mayor Brett Smiley voiced “strong support,” writing, “I am excited by what their proposed merger could bring for Providence residents and passionately recommend its approval.”

FAQs about the Rhode Island PBS  and The Public’s Radio Merger

What is happening?

The boards of the Rhode Island PBS Foundation and The Public’s Radio have voted to merge, proposing the creation of a new public media organization for Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. The next step is to seek regulatory approvals from the Federal Communications Commission, the state Attorney General, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. If approved, we anticipate the new organization would launch in early 2024. In the meantime, both organizations will continue to operate independently with no disruption to programming or services.

Why is this happening?

We are stronger together. 

Rhode Island PBS and The Public’s Radio are both trusted and respected institutions that have long traditions of telling stories that matter.

By combining resources and bringing together some of the most talented and compelling storytellers in the region, a unified joint media venture would meet new and existing audiences where they are, across platforms, to deliver innovative and dynamic content that reflects and serves the community.

The integrated entity will serve existing and expanded audiences across Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. Robust community engagement with diverse community partners will accelerate our growth together. 

Together, we can better deliver on our missions. Together, we can achieve greater impact.

Is one organization taking over?

No. Rhode Island PBS and The Public’s Radio will play equal roles, as we build a dynamic and innovative new organization.

How will this affect me?

As a nonprofit public service organization, our priority is our community, and we will be building this new organization with you: the public. We anticipate that we will be able to offer our community a deeper and richer experience, while preserving the things you love most about Rhode Island PBS and The Public’s Radio. Once the regulatory portion of the process is complete, Rhode Island PBS and The Public’s Radio will launch an inclusive community engagement process to help create a vision for a combined public media organization that engages more audiences across the region. To receive updates, sign up for our e-newsletter.

What will happen to my favorite programs?

Our programming and services will continue to grow. In the short term, you’ll continue to hear and see your favorite programs and, in the long term, we will be able to provide more of the content you love, in more ways, to suit your needs and preferences. 

How did the boards make this decision?

Over the past year, organizational leadership and the respective boards of Rhode Island PBS Foundation and The Public’s Radio met to discuss the value and benefits to the community of merging the organizations.

The two boards decided to take a serious look at the feasibility of combining the two organizations in late 2022. After many months of thoughtful conversation, the boards decided that we would be stronger together, and better able to serve the community needs. The boards officially voted to merge on November 8, 2023.

What happens to the existing boards?

Both boards will continue to exist until the regulatory process is complete.

In addition, there will be a strong committee structure as part of the new organization in which all new and former board members will participate.

What will the new media organization be called?

Right now, we are focused on completing the regulatory process, after which the board will sign a final agreement. Once those two steps are complete, we can move on to the exciting work of co-creating the future of public media in the region—including the selection of a name that captures our important shared missions of serving, supporting, and informing the community.