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PBS TO DEVELOP PLAN FOR NEW PUBLIC AFFAIRS SERVICE WITH SUPPORT OF KNIGHT FOUNDATION GRANT



ALEXANDRIA, Va., January 8, 2004 -- PBS President and CEO Pat Mitchell today announced that PBS has received a $200,000 planning grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to support the planning process for a new digital service focused on public affairs programming. The project, which has the working title "PBS Public Square," will be shaped by an advisory panel of station representatives, producers and thought leaders from the public sector, working with PBS Senior Vice President of Programming Jacoba Atlas.

"This planning grant from Knight Foundation will make it possible for PBS and member stations, with our unique national/local distribution to all Americans, to design an electronic 'public square,' a digital programming service devoted entirely to issues of local, national and global impact," said Ms. Mitchell. "The opportunity to use digital technology to create new ways to inform and engage the public responds directly to our mission and to our commitment as public service media to strengthen and sustain the values of our democracy."

"At a time when sleaze repeatedly trumps substance and 'gotcha' talk shows masquerade as meaningful discussion of current events, PBS offers hope for the recreation of sustained electronic journalism serving the public interest," said Hodding Carter III, President and CEO of Knight Foundation. "This is great news for the American people."

Ms. Atlas adds, "We envision this service as a way to further enhance the value of award-winning public affairs programming currently on PBS, from THE NEWSHOUR WITH JIM LEHRER, WASHINGTON WEEK, FRONTLINE, FRONTLINE WORLD, NOW WITH BILL MOYERS, CHARLIE ROSE, FLASHPOINTS USA WITH BRYANT GUMBEL AND GWEN IFILL, and TAVIS SMILEY, which debuted earlier this week, to the upcoming series with Tucker Carlson. This service will also include new programs and formats designed to deliver timely and compelling television and online content that will engage citizens around the issues of our time."

During the planning phase, PBS will work with a project manager and an advisory panel, to be announced in the next few days. Their mandate will be to:

-develop a case study on the need this service will fill and identify the potential audiences that will be served;
-create a program model for the service;
-build a financial model for the service that includes possible revenue sources;
-construct a production and distribution model, and outline space, supplies, personnel and equipment needs; and
-define staffing needs for the service and a business plan that makes it sustainable at national and local levels.

PBS, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, is a private, nonprofit media enterprise owned and operated by the nation's 349 public television stations. Serving nearly 90 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, the leading dot-org Web site on the Internet.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities.

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Press Contacts:
Lea Sloan, 703/739-5021, lsloan@pbs.org
Jan McNamara, 703/739-5028, jmcnamara@pbs.org.


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