PBS station to produce local news in New York City

March 24, 2011

WNET, owner of New York City-area public broadcasters WNET Channel 13 and WLIW Channel 21, will begin doing local news programming in New York City on Memorial Day.

However, the new venture, called MetroFocus, will begin on the Internet rather than on broadcast TV. Broadcasts of the news programming could start as soon as this fall, The New York Times reported.

The news venture will be in the form of a half-hour TV broadcast and, eventually, a mobile application. The show will begin gradually, starting as a weekly or monthly broadcast possibly as soon as the fall, with a daily show to follow later.

Neal Shapiro, WNET’s president and chief executive, said MetroFocus would fill a gap, both at WNET and in the news space.

“One of the futures of public television is making local connections,” he told the Times. “We’ve done a great job of being a national producer; we can do a much better job of being a local producer.”

Shapiro said the rollout to TV will depend partly on fundraising and also what the station learns from the website.

Laura van Straaten, an Internet content consultant and former network news producer, was named the MetroFocus editor-in-chief and executive producer. The news venture, she said, will be unlike its commercial competition and will not cover sports and traffic. Most other areas, however, will be fair game, she said, including “the weather, meaningful cultural coverage and serious news and policy.” She termed it “a public media sensibility.”

Some MetroFocus content will come from other media, cultural and nonprofit institutions. Shapiro said the station is forming partnerships with the state’s public TV stations, which will allow it to cover, among other things, in-depth state government news from Albany.

The venture will also work with WNYC, the public radio station in New York City. Shapiro said it will give the radio station a chance “to show off some of their work.”

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