WGBH, the top producer of PBS programs, now owns Public Radio International

In a move signalling its ambitions to extend its clout and influence in public radio, Boston's WGBH has acquired Public Radio International, the Minnesota-based program distributor of radio programs such as This American Life, The World and The Takeaway. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but the sale will help to stabilize the nonprofit program distributor PRI, which ran an operating deficit of $2 million in 2011, according to PRI spokesperson Julia Yager. "This is a deal borne out of shared visions," Yager said in an interview with Current. PRI began examining its options last year as its leadership considered the implications of various funding scenarios for public media. PRI looked for partners to help it continue distributing radio programming and found that WGBH was best aligned with its own mission and values.

Output: Bitton’s homage to Piaf, STEM rock tunes from PBS, where 5-year-olds hide evidence (on PRX), and more

Decades ago, a teenaged Raquel Bitton locked herself in her San Francisco bedroom, suffering miserably from her first broken heart. Her only comfort was an album by Edith Piaf, the diminutive French chanteuse known as “the Little Sparrow.”

“It is the love that you love,” Piaf sang in “C’est L’amour.” “It is love that makes you dream. It is love that wants love. It is love that makes us cry.”

“I listened to it all and came out of my room with a decision to get onstage and sing — and to love again,” Bitton said. “I put together a little revue singing Piaf’s songs, telling pieces of her stories.

Reber leaves NPR; Arganbright, Appleby launch firm; and more…

CIR has hired ex-NPR investigative news head Susanne Reber. As senior coordinating editor for multiplatform projects and investigations for the nonprofit newsroom, Reber will lead national and international investigative and enterprise reporting projects, and guide the center’s team of health and environment reporters. Reber joined NPR in January 2010 to build and lead the network’s first investigative unit as deputy managing editor of investigations. She left NPR this month, according to a May 8 memo by NPR News chief Margaret Low Smith that was published on the Poynter Institute website. Smith put Senior National Editor Steve Drummond in charge of investigations while NPR determines “next steps for the unit’s leadership,” she wrote in the memo.

Shows sate ‘appetite for a real-world experience’

Know something about antiques? Prove it,” screamed the ad seeking “pickers” for Market Warriors, the long-awaited companion series to PBS’s most popular primetime program, Antiques Roadshow. Though PBS pioneered the concept of reality television with American Family and other cinema verité documentary series, it refrained from adding more reality TV as the genre became a staple of commercial television. But with the coming summer season and beyond, PBS is dipping into the reality game. A trio of unscripted programs — each coproduced by Boston’s WGBH— will premiere within the next year.

Former WGBH broadcast engineer Vern Coleman dies

Vern Coleman, 86, who worked 14 years as an audio engineer at WGBH working on such shows as The French Chef, The Boston Pops and Evening at Symphony, died March 18 at his home in Marstons Mills, Mass., after a long battle with leukemia. He was nominated for a primetime Emmy Award for best live sound in 1976, for his work on New Year’s Eve at Pops; he attended the Emmy ceremonies in Hollywood but lost to the soundman for Johnny Carson. Coleman also worked  as a contract engineer for WBUR in Boston, among other stations, and as a staff engineer of commercial WCVB. The lifelong resident of Cape Cod was born in Hyannis to local artist and educator Vernon H. Coleman and Ruby E. Coleman. He began his broadcast career in 1943, a year before he graduated from Barnstable High School, at Cape Cod’s only radio station, WOCB in West Yarmouth.

MPT hires new v.p., Sill to be KPCC’s executive editor, three Illinois pubcasters retire, and more…

Rick Lore is Maryland Public Television’s new v.p. and chief development officer
Lore is responsible for membership, on-air fundraising, major and planned giving, publications, outreach and community engagement at the state network headquartered in Owings Mills. Lore joined MPT on an interim basis last fall after Joe Krushinsky left his job as v.p. of institutional advancement. Krushinsky now directs station development services at PBS. Previously Lore served as executive director of Friends of Milwaukee Public Television, the fundraising affiliate of Milwaukee Public TV; directed  on-air fundraising for PBS; and led development at New Hampshire Public Television. Lore, who began his pubTV career in 1989 in San Jose, Calif., has won eight PBS development awards and is a frequent conference speaker.