PBS and NPR Team Up to Produce a New Television Initiative

Posted by PBS Publicity on

Philadelphia, PA - June 14, 2001 - The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR) will collaborate to develop and produce a new television initiative with a working title of PUBLIC SQUARE. The announcement was made today by Pat Mitchell, president and CEO of PBS, and Kevin Klose, president and CEO of NPR, at the PBS Annual Meeting.

PUBLIC SQUARE is envisioned as a fresh, bold, 90-minute weekly television program rooted in conversation. While it will cover the week's major events, PUBLIC SQUARE will not confine itself to politics and economics. Rather, it will focus on a wide range of subjects including history, religion, science and popular culture, as well as the arts and performance. PUBLIC SQUARE will also be wide-ranging in the tools it uses to explore American life, from classic documentary storytelling to discussion, debate, interviews and monologues. And, in the tradition of great American general interest magazines, it will use fiction, as well as non-fiction stories, poetry and prose, to examine the American scene.

The appearance and format of the program will differ significantly from traditional television newsmagazines. Staged on a set designed as an "American Cafe," the program's segments will be organized around a series of tables, each hosted by an experienced journalist who will conduct the interviews, lead the discussions and conduct the conversations that introduce the documentary segments. The program will be lit and shot in a cinematic style, the conversations "overheard" by the camera and the audience, and edited rigorously to seamlessly integrate them with video and music appropriate to each conversation.

"PUBLIC SQUARE will have a breadth of inquiry found in a great Sunday newspaper; it will explore all dimensions of contemporary life," said Pat Mitchell. "NPR's editorial depth, production and on-air talent will be a vital contribution to this initiative. Our audiences continually challenge PBS and NPR to provide programming that is new, intelligent, provocative and entertaining. This partnership provides a unique opportunity to pool the intellectual, creative and editorial resources in innovative new ways that reflect and showcase the organizations' shared values and mission."

"During the past 30 years NPR and its member stations have developed a powerful approach to creating programs, imparting information and involving listeners in a national dialogue," said Kevin Klose. "By taking a leadership role with PBS we are able to bring this approach to a wider audience. The PUBLIC SQUARE initiative is another avenue for NPR to explore new opportunities to expand our service to the community in ways that are complementary to our core radio programming."

Michael Sullivan, former executive producer of FRONTLINE, will produce PUBLIC SQUARE. The collaboration will draw on the talent and resources of NPR and PBS through contributions of their correspondents, reporters, producers, filmmakers and independent producers.

Plans to develop the series, tentatively scheduled to begin broadcasting in spring 2002, were announced in January by Ms. Mitchell and Robert Coonrod, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). The Public Square initiative, designed to strengthen the "citizenship" aspect of public broadcasting's mission, had initially been developed at CPB and in sessions with PBS station producers. Also in January, NPR and PBS announced a landmark, on-air and online strategic alliance. PUBLIC SQUARE represents the next step in this ongoing creative partnership.

An interactive Web site will accompany the television broadcast, significantly extending the impact and reach of the program. Community-based outreach initiatives will provide complementary show components that involve local radio and television member stations.

Michael Sullivan was executive producer of FRONTLINE for four years, after serving eight years as the series' senior producer. During his tenure, he has overseen dozens of FRONTLINE projects, including the acclaimed "The Gulf War" and "The Farmer's Wife" mini-series; the investigation of the Rwanda genocide, "The Triumph of Evil," winner of Peabody, Emmy and Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Awards; "The Killer at Thurston High"; "John Paul II: The Millennial Pope"; and most recently "The Choice 2000," a dual biography of George W. Bush and Al Gore, and "The Clinton Years," a FRONTLINE-NIGHTLINE collaboration.

PBS, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, is a private, nonprofit media enterprise owned and operated by the nation's 347 public television stations. Serving nearly 100 million people each week, PBS enriches the lives of all Americans through quality programs and education services on noncommercial television, the Internet and other media. More information about PBS is available at PBS.org.

NPR, renowned for its journalistic excellence and standard-setting news, information and cultural programming, serves a growing audience of nearly 16 million Americans each week via more than 670 public radio stations. NPR Online at www.npr.org brings hourly newscasts, news features, commentaries and live events to Internet users through original online reports, audio streaming and other multimedia elements. NPR also distributes programming to listeners in Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa via NPR Worldwide, to military installations overseas via American Forces Network and throughout Japan via cable.


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