WGBH’s acquisition of Public Radio International: news and analysis

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WGBH strikes deal to acquire Public Radio International

WGBH, long a national powerhouse in public television, took a step this week to becoming a national force in public ­radio as well.

The Boston station said Thursday that it has acquired Public Radio International, the Minneapolis company that distributes some of the best-known public radio programs, including “This American Life,” to nearly 900 affiliates across the country and on satellite radio, reaching more than 16 million listeners. PRI also produces its own programs.

Since revamping its flagship radio station in Boston three years ago, WGBH has been in direct competition with cross-town rival WBUR on news and information programming for Boston-area listeners.

The PRI acquisition makes WGBH a player nationally for public radio staples such as thoughtful public affairs programming….

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WGBH widens radio reach with PRI acquisition

… For PRI, the partnership presents an opportunity to create more multiplatform content for its affiliate stations. As an example of the projects PRI aspires to produce, Miller cites its recent State Integrity Investigation project. The network joined with about two dozen stations across the country to assess safeguards against corruption within state governments.

PRI will draw on its experiences with that project as it embarks on a new initiative, Immigrant Lives. Announced July 25, Immigrant Lives will draw on a $400,000 grant from the Rita Allen Foundation to produce stories for PRI’s The World about immigrants in the U.S. PRI is working on the project with New America Media, an umbrella group for ethnic-news organizations across the country.

Under the partnership with WGBH, the station will assume some administrative functions for PRI, which will reduce costs for the network. Leaders at both organizations have yet to determine how staffing will be affected but expect no sweeping changes.

Public Radio International Acquired by WGBH—But Why?

… PRI CEO Alisa Miller says that, on PRI’s side, the arrangement flowed out of a strategic planning process that began a few years back where they laid out ambitious goals. They later found that though they were quick to identify opportunities, they could not pace their approach to them well. “If there was anything missing from PRI, it was the ability to scale quickly,” she said. “This is an environment where you need to not only be able to move quickly, but also, when you find success, you need to be able to feed it and nurture it.”

WGBH CEO Jon Abbot says that PRI’s “energy and creativity looking at public media’s future will hopefully rub off on WGBH.” Reportedly, the plan is to keep the two organizations operating fairly independently. It will be interesting to watch where this goes….

One additional point: this question of what is needed to support a fast pace of innovation came up just last week in a newswire regarding a large nonprofit health insurer. We expect that we will see more of it in the near future

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