NewsHour Productions has taken over operations of Washington Week, a move that further consolidates PBS’ national news programs under one roof.
NewsHour Productions is a subsidiary of WETA in Washington, D.C. Washington Week, the Friday political roundtable program moderated by Yamiche Alcindor, premiered in 1967 on WETA and became a staple on PBS in 1970.
NewsHour EP Sara Just announced the Washington Week decision during a CPB board meeting Wednesday. “Our CEO at WETA, Sharon Rockefeller, is doing all this in recognition of the opportunities to maximize resources,” Just said.
The change took effect immediately. Jeff Bieber, a WETA VP and EP of Washington Week, left the station Wednesday to form an independent production company, Bieber Productions, that will create documentaries for public broadcasting. A WETA spokesperson said the decision to restructure management of Washington Week is linked to ongoing consolidation efforts, not Bieber’s departure.
Just will serve as EP of Washington Week until someone is hired for the role, according to a Nov. 29 staff memo by Rockefeller and WETA EVP and COO Jason Daisey. The new EP will report to Just.
“This change signals only an operational shift, in keeping with our strategic examination of how we optimize production of our expanded news portfolio,” said Rockefeller and Daisey in the memo.
Michael Rancilio is SVP and GM of NewsHour Productions. Annette Miller retired as the subsidiary’s VP on Friday, according to a NewsHour spokesperson.
Moving Washington Week into NewsHour Productions will soon bring three of PBS’ national public affairs programs under one company. NewsHour Productions is preparing to take over management of NewsHour Weekend with Geoff Bennett as host. The weekend program, which launched in 2013, will cease being a co-production with the Creative News Group at the WNET Group in New York City by April 2022.
During the CPB board meeting, SVP Kathy Merritt said consolidating NewsHour Weekend within the WETA-based subsidiary would help manage costs. “In consultation with PBS, we concluded that bringing all the NewsHour productions under one roof would allow for a more efficient and effective use of public media resources,” said Merritt, who oversees CPB’s radio and journalism grants in addition to CSG services.
Merritt also described potential audience benefits for NewsHour Weekend under the new structure — specifically its digital reach. In 2020, the NewsHour’s YouTube page reached 466 million views, a year-over-year increase of 50%. The program’s website also had 136 million page views last year, a 51% increase. Like most news organizations, NewsHour gained audience during the coronavirus pandemic.
Just told the CPB board that consolidating operations of NewsHour and NewsHour Weekend would facilitate collaboration and a more efficient staffing structure. Producers of the weekend program at WNET used a different computer system for video production, which made sharing material with the WETA-based team “a laborious effort,” she said.
Just plans to restructure staffing across the three programs so some producers will work Wednesday through Sunday or Friday through Tuesday. The changes will also create roles for staff to produce for NewsHour, Washington Week and NewsHour Weekend.
Update: This story previously reported that Annette Miller is VP of NewsHour Productions. Miller retired Friday, according to a NewsHour spokesperson.