NBC-Owned TV Stations Select Non-Profit Content Partners

The NBC-owned TV stations have selected four non-profit content partners, including ProPublica, to help produce more and more diverse local news at four owned stations and across its 10-station group.

The move is both a response to a voluntary commitment in the Comcast–NBCU deal and the result of NBC's "long-standing commitment to localism," the station group said in announcing the new partnerships. As one of the voluntary commitments the FCC incorporated into the deal, Comcast agreed that "at least half of the 10 NBC Owned Television Stations [will] enter into cooperative arrangements with locally focused non-profit news organizations [online news partners]."

The new four are in addition to the partnership already in place in San Diego between KNSD and voiceofsandiego.org, which predates the Comcast deal and on which the other partnerships will be modeled.

"Over the last several months, we've made significant investments in our 10 stations to boost our news gathering capabilities and deliver the best local news and information in the marketplace," said Valari Staab, president of the NBC Owned Television Stations, in announcing the move. "Our new partnerships will complement these efforts, giving us even more resources to enterprise stories that are important to our viewers in the communities we serve and helping us offer even more diverse programming and viewpoints.

"We're confident this agreement will extend the reach and impact of ProPublica's groundbreaking news applications and result in great local stories for NBC viewers around the country," said Richard Tofel, ProPublica's general manager, in a statement. "Beyond that, we're very grateful for NBCUniversal's commitment to supporting innovative non-profit journalism in the public interest."

ProPublica, the first news outlet to win a Pulitzer (in 2011) for work that did not appear in print and winner ot two awards in as many years, will work with WNBC-TV New York, as well as with all 10 NBC-owned stations to help boost NBC local station news resources while providing a wider platform for the nonprofit. NBC gave a donation to ProPublica, according to Tofel, though it was not part of the formal agreement. Comcast–NBCU provided a donation to each of the sites it chose as partners, according to a Comcast/NBCU source speaking on background. They would not comment on the amount.

NBC stations will get a broadcast TV-exclusive first-look at ProPublica news applications like, say, its "Dollars for Docs" database/application of hundreds of millions of dollars in payments to doctors from pharmaceutical companies, Tofel told B&C. He said that 120 news oprganizations have used that database for local stories, which he said helps the site since its mission is "to have impact, and those 120 stories "obviously give that story enormous impact." For the next such investigation, NBC's owned stations "will get access for their local television station ahead of other television stations with which they compete. They get an early warning that the database is going to exist, and early access to it," Tofel says. "They are in a position on the day we launch a database to do stories in all 10 of their markets if they want to."

Tofel says the deal does not include NBC stations sharing info with ProPublica, though he ads that it may be a two-way street as they start working together on stories. Among the news applications the site has done include educational opportunities at high schools around the country, dialysis care quality, death investigations, Chinsees dry wall in people's homes, stimulus bailouts, and the just-released tracking of presidential pardons"all of which can be localized," he points out.

In the three other local-market partnerships, the Chicago Reporter will team up with WMAQ TV Chicago, while WCAU Philadelphia and KNBC Los Angeles will team up with local noncommercial stations WHYY TV, and public radio station KPCC, respectively.

"This partnership with WHYY gives us an amazing opportunity to reach a broader audience, a different audience," says Chris Blackman, VP of news for WCAU.

"Any time you can combine resources to gather the news, it's really beneficial," says Steve Carlston, president and GM of KNBC. "In Southern California, it's instrumental to the growth of our news businesses."

NBCU says it chose the four partners after winnowing down a list of more than 30 applicants. Tofel says after it learned about NBC's request for partners, it applied, proposing helping all the stations.

The partners will team up on, among other things, story development, research, investigations, sharing footage across multiple platforms and cross-promoting each others' operations.

NBC Local Media launched its search for local partners back in May.


John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.