NEPR, WGBY to team up in new media group

  • Anthony Hayes, general manager of WGBY Public Television, and Martin Miller, CEO and general manager of New England Public Radio.

Staff Writer
Published: 4/12/2019 5:37:17 PM

SPRINGFIELD — There’s a new partnership in the works. New England Public Radio and WGBY public television have announced that they’re going to form a new multimedia organization — New England Public Media. 

New England Public Media will be independently run, with NEPR CEO and General Manager Martin Miller becoming president and WGBY General Manager Anthony Hayes becoming chief operating officer and general manager. All 78 current employees of NEPR and WGBY will have roles with the new organization, Miller said, adding that he expects the newsroom to grow in the coming years.

“I think this is great for Springfield and western New England as a whole,” Hayes said.

In addition to an initiative to create a daily, locally focused radio program, New England Public Media will also focus on other new content, including digital music streams and community engagement programming. The new organization’s leaders expect final approval of the partnership to be completed this summer, according to a press release.

Miller told the Gazette that the strategic partnership was intended to grow the two organizations’ ability to provide quality journalism.

“We want to expand that journalism because we have a civic responsibility and a public mission to do that,” Miller said.

He also said that in an increasingly competitive media landscape, many organizations are moving to expand their offerings. In other words, it’s no longer just about television and radio, he said. 

“What it means primarily is we’re going to have a very robust public media organization that includes audio, video and digital,” Miller said. That includes the possibility of more offerings like music streams, podcasts and live events, he added.

The partnership also represents an expansion for the Boston-based WGBH Educational Foundation, which holds the broadcast license for WGBY and the state’s other PBS member station, WGBH television, in addition to overseeing the Boston NPR affiliate WGBH radio. The foundation will invest $6 million in New England Public Media over six years, according to a press release.

On the radio side, the University of Massachusetts Amherst will retain the broadcast license for WFCR 88.5. A press release announcing the creation of New England Public Media states that UMass Amherst played an active role in the negotiations.

“The creation of New England Public Media reflects the university’s enduring commitment to the independent news coverage and cultural programming provided by public media,” UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in the statement. “UMass Amherst was a founding partner of WFCR nearly 60 years ago, and we are enthusiastic about how this new, 21st-century collaboration will serve our communities with distinction.”

Under the new arrangement, the WGBY and NEPR boards will merge to form a new 25-member board that will steer New England Public Media. Hayes and Miller said four of those seats on the board will be reserved for New England Public Media’s president, WGBH, UMass and the director of Five Colleges Inc. 

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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