New York PBS stations talk merger

New York's three PBS stations may be merging.

Public stations WNET-TV and WLIW-TV are considering merging their respective technical operations and other functions. Talks between the two stations aimed at cutting costs have been underway for more than a year at the suggestion of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. A third New York public outlet, WNYE-TV, may also be involved in a merger.

The cost of digital conversion to the three stations - $35 million for WNET, $10 million for WLIW and $5 million to $10 million for WNYE - is creating an urgency about the talks, according to WNET president Bill Baker. "All of the stations are stressed by huge capital costs for digital conversion with no obvious source for capital funding," Baker said.

But Baker indicated there is no time frame to bring the talks to some culmination. Staff consolidation between the three stations is one objective. Baker also noted that programming efficiencies could be realized, although that issue hasn't been addressed specifically as yet. "Certainly not bidding against each other is immediately an efficiency," Baker said. - Richard Tedesco