After two decades as a weekly NPR program, the 22-year-old Science Friday is preparing to shake things up. With its move to Public Radio International distribution on Jan. 1, the talk show has ambitious plans to put its content into wider distribution through collaborations with PRI series such as The World and The Takeaway as well as with the PBS science program Nova. WGBH in Boston, which acquired PRI in 2012, is involved in production of all three major series, opening new cross-platform distribution and branding opportunities. A new educational specialist is working to turn more of Science Friday’s content into curricular materials, and PRI is exploring ways to offer its programming through PBS Learning Media, the online resource providing free media and lesson plans to K–12 educators.
Public Radio International has revamped its website to absorb the web presence of PRI’s The World, reflecting the network’s aim to develop a higher profile in international news. The new site gives greater prominence to international news from The World and other PRI programs. The World “is increasingly, for us, a journalism brand,” said Michael Skoler, PRI’s v.p. of interactive media. Previously, The World had its own website at TheWorld.org. It now redirects to PRI.org. PRI has combined the previously separate staff and resources for the two sites.
Public radio’s The Takeaway has more than doubled its carriage since cancellation of NPR’s Talk of the Nation, and the show’s producers are working to add even more outlets by building news collaborations with station-based reporters and programmers.
Science Friday, the weekly NPR series hosted by Ira Flatow, is pairing with Public Radio International in a new distribution deal to take effect in January 2014. The agreement calls for Science Friday, a signature element of NPR’s science coverage since its 1991 launch, to continue as a weekly radio broadcast under PRI distribution. In addition, Flatow and his producers will collaborate with PRI series The World, The Takeaway and Studio 360 to develop multi-platform content around science topics. “We’re excited to work with PRI to expand their science and technology coverage,” Flatow said in a PRI news release. “PRI shares our vision of serving the public by telling compelling stories about timely issues.
The Ford Foundation has awarded Public Radio International a two-year, $500,000 grant to support Global Nation, a project that will cover social-justice issues affecting immigrants to the U.S. and their children. Launched last year, Global Nation uses partnerships with ethnic media, independent producers and local public radio stations to find social-justice stories affecting immigrants. The resulting stories air on PRI’s The World. The initiative was initially supported by the Rita Allen Foundation. Using the Ford support, PRI will expand the initiative’s reach with enterprise reporting and an online community of people and civic organizations concerned about immigration issues.
The ombudsman for America Abroad, a monthly public radio show covering foreign policy and international affairs, has responded to criticism from the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting regarding a recent show about developments in energy technology. In a May 31 blog post, FAIR said that the April episode of America Abroad “sounded like an infomercial” for fracking, the hydraulic fracturing process used in natural gas production. FAIR pointed out that the show was funded by the Qatar Foundation International, a philanthropy funded by the royal family of Qatar. Qatar is a leading exporter of natural gas — in 2011, it was the world’s top exporter, according to the International Gas Union. FAIR also took issue with the appearance on the show of Henry Jacoby, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor involved with a study about the future of natural gas. The MIT Energy Initiative, which produced the report, includes oil and gas companies as members, and the study’s advisory committee included representatives from natural-gas industry groups.
The competition for midday timeslots on public radio stations is heating up, as Public Radio International and producers of its news programs unveiled plans to experiment with new approaches for combining national and local content to give stations more control over what their local listeners hear during the middle of each weekday.