Public Television

PBS stations WPBT and WXEL renew merger talks


The PBS broadcasters said Thursday they were exploring a combination that would eliminate duplicate programming and provide new options.

Two South Florida public broadcasting stations are exploring a merger, the stations announced Thursday.

The new entity, South Florida PBS, would bring together WPBT2, serving mainly Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and WXEL-TV, which serves Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, establishing South Florida as the seventh-largest Nielsen television market in the United States, the stations said.

The joint announcement was made Thursday by Dolores Sukhdeo, CEO of WPBT2, and Bernie Henneberg, CEO of WXEL.

“This is the right time and the right place to be creative and take bold steps to serve our community,” Sukhdeo said in a statement. “We are in a new era of communication, and there are many advantages of working together to maximize our resources to create local content and services.”

Merger discussions have taken place before through the years, and failed. In 2009, 2005 and even as far back as 1997, there has been talk of buyouts or mergers.

But “the way media is today, we need to be innovative,” said Max Duke, WPBT2’s vice president of content and partnerships. Although talks are still in the very early stages, the stations wanted to communicate to their viewers, he said. “We are exploring how we would do this to benefit all the communities involved but with the missions of each station still fulfilled.”

WXEL officials did not return a call for comment.

The new South Florida PBS would virtually eliminate duplicate programming of the stations while allowing the new entity to produce and acquire new programs for the diverse communities it would serve, the stations said.

WXEL, for instance, has four digital channels and WPBT2 has three, allowing for more programming options, Duke said.

Supporters of public television also would be able to make a single donation to South Florida PBS for the benefit of all of the area or, if they so designated, a specific area of programming. The new South Florida PBS would also provide underwriters with a larger market, but they would still be able to target specific areas.

WLRN-TV, operated by the Miami-Dade School Board, also serves the South Florida market. The PBS station is particularly known for its original programming and weekly program lineup of children’s shows.

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