WETA, the flagship public media station for Washington, D.C., is expected to assume ownership and control of PBS NewsHour on 7/1. The announcement was made by Sharon Percy Rockefeller, president and chief executive officer of WETA, and Bo Jones Jr., CEO MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. The WETA Board of Trustees unanimously voted to authorize the agreement on 6/17, and now all parties have reached an agreement in principle and are proceeding to completion of the transfer.
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.
“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 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.
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.