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Californians hire exec to launch Public Square with world news show

Originally published in Current, May 15, 2006
By Steve Behrens

California stations KCET and KQED have hired a top CNN executive, Sid Bedingfield, to put together a daily public affairs block, two to four hours long and working-titled Public Square, for the new PBS World multicast channel. The block will lead off with an hour of international news, Global Watch.

PubTV stations subscribing to the World channel will be able to air the programming on their main channels as well, according to KQED President Jeff Clarke.

Bedingfield, former senior v.p. of CNN Productions, starts May 22 as president of California Fault Line Productions, a new nonprofit jointly controlled by the stations and PBS, Clarke said. In 20 years with CNN, Bedingfield served as e.p. of CNN International and as senior e.p. and then g.m. of CNN/U.S.

Primary funding will come from PBS, Clarke says, but the project needs to raise more. To plan and launch Public Square, the network so far has raised $3.2 million from the Knight Foundation and $1 million from the Ford Foundation, according to PBS.

Global Watch, a daily hour on World, will emphasize news analysis as the NewsHour does, but it will be “a little more highly paced,” with a field/studio mix that Bedingfield will determine, Clarke says.

The project will become a 24-hour news service through its website, which will have its own e.p., extensive interactivity and a higher-than-average web budget, KCET President Al Jerome says.

Other elements of Public Square are in talking stages, Jerome says, including a magazine-format show, C2C, with reports produced by pubTV stations; a TV version of the PRI/WGBH/BBC radio program The World; and indie docs from the Independent Television Service.

“We have been championing the idea of more news for some time,” says Jerome, a member of PBS’s long-ago Public Square planning task force.

The two California stations’ success with the four-year-old statewide weekly newsmagazine California Connected, which they produce jointly with KVIE in Sacramento and KPBS in San Diego, was “one of the reasons we’ve been given the opportunity,” Clarke says.

Clarke says the stations also carry lower-than-usual overhead costs by contracting for production staffs rather than maintaining large permanent payrolls.

Web version of story above was corrected to include Bedingfield's exact title, president of California Fault Line Productions. Print version said he was its head.

Web page posted June 27, 2006
The newspaper about public TV and radio
in the United States
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Copyright 2006

Sid Bedingfield


World is one of five or more multicast channels that will be offered to public TV stations to supplement their main channel. Each station will be able to air four or more multicast streams within its DTV signal.

"Public Square" has morphed from one kind of public affairs project to another in recent years. Around 2000, it was going to be a weekly program. Later, PBS received grants to develop it as a multicast channel. PBS's Digital Future Initiative endorsed the idea in 2005.


PBS news release on Bedingfield's hiring.