South Florida PBS has withdrawn its bid to manage Miami’s WLRN, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and a focus on producing more health content.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools, WLRN’s licensee, has sought a new manager for the station since last year. A five-person committee convened by the school board recommended last year that South Florida PBS manage WLRN. South Florida PBS already operates WXEL in Palm Beach County and WPBT2 in Miami.
Friends of WLRN, a station friends group that had also bid to run WLRN, filed a petition Dec. 12 challenging the committee’s recommendation. Its petition was denied, and Friends of WLRN sought an administrative hearing to resolve the dispute.
The case was in the discovery phase of the administrative hearing. A court date had been set for Tuesday.
In a statement provided to Current, South Florida PBS said, “We are very grateful that Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Schools Alberto Carvalho placed his trust in South Florida PBS during the M-DPS process. However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are making a very difficult decision to withdraw our proposal for the management of WLRN and focus our resources on serving the people of South Florida via our coverage, programs services and efforts of keeping our community informed about this health emergency.”
A South Florida PBS spokesperson also told Current that the station is prioritizing producing more content for its Health Channel concerning the coronavirus. The channel has produced information about hygiene and testing for the coronavirus, news crawls with regular updates and a website tracking the spread of the virus. The channel also streamed an hourlong production on Facebook Live that has reached more than 80,000 views.
A spokesperson for Miami-Dade County Public Schools said the school district can’t comment on South Florida PBS’ decision to withdraw because a formal recommendation on WLRN’s management has not yet been made to the school board.
Dwight Hill, board chair of Friends of WLRN, said in a statement that he hopes to work with the school district “to negotiate a thoughtful plan that will allow WLRN Radio and TV to continue to thrive and grow as a trusted news source for the entire South Florida community.”