The public TV station serving eastern Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley recently decided that the best way to survive as an independent station was to step back from its status as the primary station serving its market. For WLVT in Bethlehem, a small city less than 70 miles north of Philadelphia, becoming a PDP station “was a natural,” said Tim Fallon, acting c.e.o. “It just doesn’t make sense that two stations, just two channels away from each other, have exactly the same programming.”
WLVT, which is locally branded as PBS39, was hard-hit by budget cuts in 2009 when the state sliced its $1 million in annual support to $100,000. Nearly half of its staff was laid off. When longtime C.E.O. Patricia Simon stepped away in March, the board appointed Fallon, a businessman and longtime station board member and volunteer. After taking over at WLVT, Fallon came to an “alignment of vision” with WHYY President Bill Marrazzo on how the stations could complement each other.