Harrisonburg Public Television to Join Forces with Richmond-based Commonwealth Public Broadcasting

Combined entity means new public TV channel in Harrisonburg and Charlottesville

The board of Shenandoah Valley Educational Television Corporation (SVETC) announced today that WVPT is consolidating its operations with Commonwealth Public Broadcasting Corporation (CPBC), which operates the Richmond-based public radio station and PBS-member stations in Richmond and Charlottesville known as the Community Idea Stations.

Once the consolidation is complete next spring, the impact of the combined enterprise – which takes the CPBC name – is an additional channel of programming in both Harrisonburg and Charlottesville.  The channel will offer repeats later in the week of signature PBS programs such as Masterpiece, NOVA and Nature, as well as documentaries not currently airing on the main PBS station, how-to and travel shows, special holiday programs and more.

 

“This move marks an important milestone in the half-century history for public broadcasting in our region,” said Stephen Davis, SVETC board chair.  “While WVPT will maintain our integral relationship with the local community, we are now in a stronger position to not only meet the challenges that public broadcasters throughout the country are confronting, but to help shape the dynamic future that is public media.  Commonwealth Public Broadcasting is a recognized leader throughout the country, and we are excited to align our future with theirs.”  

The combined operation will be managed by Curtis Monk, President and CEO of CPBC.  Tony Mancari, who was President, CEO, and General Manager of WVPT-TV, will assume responsibility for a newly created asset-revenue business unit.  No other staff changes are planned for the immediate future.  

“We recognize that there is strength in numbers, and by combining forces with our friends at WVPT, we are enhancing our capacity to broaden our reach and leverage the power of media to educate, entertain and inspire,” Monk said.  “This move creates a formidable foundation on which to make an impact within our broad community of viewers.  We welcome WVPT to the Community Idea Stations family.”  

Paula Kerger, President of PBS, gave her enthusiastic stamp of approval.  “Congratulations to these two organizations for coming together for the greater good of the communities they serve.  I believe this partnership shows great promise and could serve as a model for other public media stations across the country.” 

Three members of the SVETC board – Tassie Pippert, Jim Krauss, and Stephen Davis – will join the CPBC board.  All SVETC employees will join CPBC once regulatory reviews are completed. 

The transaction is subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission.  The parties expect to complete the consolidation in early 2018.

Frequently asked questions

Why is this necessary?

This collaboration is not really “necessary” in the sense that both companies can certainly continue to operate as independent entities.  However, the collaboration is viewed by both SVETC and CPBC as a good strategic move that will result in synergies, efficiencies, and more impact for the Commonwealth.

What happens with the WVPT assets that exist today (fixed & financial)?

The WVPT assets will be combined with CPBC assets to create a very strong and stable financial foundation.  Both organizations agree that it is in the best interests of the community that the assets from WVPT be designated to create impact and support initiatives for the benefit of the current SVETC footprint.

How does this help assure the availability of PBS TV programs in the future?

By creating a stronger organization from a financial standpoint the community can rest easy that people in all affected areas will have access to available PBS programs.  While that’s important, it is even more important to realize that the people currently served by WVPT will have their current viewing options increased in a big way.  Not only will popular PBS programs be made available for viewing in an expanded fashion but there will be new programs that were previously impractical for WVPT to consider.

Why could WVPT not continue to operate on its own as a locally based entity?

WVPT could continue to operate as a locally based entity.  The Board, however, is charged with representing the community interests on both an operational and strategic basis.  By making this move now the WVPT community will benefit from active participation and building the strongest possible organization to achieve meaningful, relevant, and increasing local impact for the greater good.

How are the auction funds received by the 2 stations going to be used?

Both WVPT and CPBC are in agreement that a one-time infusion of capital should be treated with care and considered a foundation to support growth, new initiatives, and as a mechanism to adapt to a constantly changing world.  Ideally, the principle will be preserved, the organization will define a reasonable annual draw, and management will be charged with putting resources to their highest and best use in order to make the collective communities better places to live.  Clearly, the presence of substantial capital allows for strategic investment for the future and that leads to more and more impact and progress.

Will there be any cutbacks in staffing or operations in the Valley?

All Valley employees will be hired at day of merger.  Any collaboration of this nature requires dialogue, discussion, and collective thinking.  Both organizations are aligned with regard to balancing the concepts of respect for the individual and putting resources to their highest and best use.  As the organization evolves change is inevitable but speculation on any specifics would be inappropriate and terribly premature. 

How will money contributed locally be spent in the future?

Local contributions will be used to make the Valley a better place to live by using the power of media to educate, entertain, and inspire. 

What will the makeup of the board be that has responsibility for the new organization?

By definition, community boards should reflect the population served.  As a starting point, three members of the existing SVETC will be given board seats in the new organization.  Since there are already two CPBC board members from the WVPT service area there will be a good starting point to reflect a diverse geographic representation.

Who will be in charge from a management standpoint overall and in the Valley?

The current President and CEO of CPBC will ultimately be responsible to all markets, including the Valley.  He will take some time to work with both the WVPT and CPBC teams to develop an organization that puts resources to their highest and best use, provides opportunity and motivation for employees, and makes a positive difference to the community.

Were other options considered beyond the combination with CPBC?

They were.  The WVPT Board went through a strategic planning process and brainstormed and carefully evaluated as many options as possible.  Given the contiguity of the markets, the shared values, and the reality that there was already an existing partnership for programming services the Board decided that this was in the best interests of the community.

What do PBS & CPB think of this type of approach?

They are both enthusiastic and very supportive.  It is clear that advances in technology have created entirely new paradigms and opportunities for media.  There is no question that the emergence of the internet as a major content players has been both exciting and disruptive.  It is fair to say that there is a lot of redundancy in the world of public media.  Unfortunately, that redundancy cannot be fixed with the wave of a magic wand.  It requires cooperation and willingness on the part of two organizations to work together, check their egos at the door, and recognize the mission of public media is to serve the greater good.  While that may sound easy it has proven to be a very hard thing to do.  The prospect of this combination is very exciting to both PBS and CPB because it will send a very positive message throughout the system.

How does the FCC (or other regulators) weigh in on this type of transaction?

The FCC has an obligation to make sure that any combination of stations will serve the greater good and not result in some sort of negative outcome.  The FCC has a disciplined process that is designed to foster due diligence without imposing inappropriate time delay.  Assuming all goes well with that process the arrangement will probably receive FCC final approval during the first quarter of 2018.

Will this translate into changes when it comes to program underwriting and other support from the local area in the future?

Once again, a specific answer requires collective collaboration.  However, all indications are that the combination will result in more opportunities and provide more choices for underwriters.  Overall, as this combination results in more impact, more benefit, and more programming there is some optimism that the community will respond in a very favorable and supportive fashion.

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