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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Rhode Island public radio and TV merger is OK'd

Hopes high for stronger non-profit journalism

By Alexander Castro, Rhode Island Current

AG Peter Neronha's statement that the
merger offers "a community benefit"
Rhode Island PBS and The Public’s Radio’s will soon be one entity.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha announced the approval of the merger of the two public media organizations Tuesday after conducting a review to ensure compliance with state law.

Elizabeth Delude-Dix, chair of the board of directors of The Public’s Radio, thanked the attorney general’s office and said in a statement: “The Public’s Radio and Rhode Island PBS have long provided honest journalism, robust educational programming, and engaging and entertaining content to Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. Our impact will be increased and our audience expanded as we take these next exciting steps forward.” 

Torey Malatia, CEO of The Public’s Radio, said via email: “I agree the new institution has great potential for community service.”

Now, a new jointly-made board will begin to work with staff from both broadcast stations to align their respective operations and administration, according to a press release from Rhode Island PBS. 

The Rhode Island PBS ’s website also posted a job description for a new leadership role — specifically, a “visionary President and CEO to create an innovative and dynamic 21st century public media institution,” with an early deadline of March 1. 

The Public Radio Conversions Act passed in 2005 and was designed to prevent the commercial sale of The Public’s Radio, formerly known as Rhode Island Public Radio. Under the law, the attorney general is responsible for reviewing and authorizing any proposed merger.

The November 2023 application noted there is no sale involved in the merger process and that the assets of each party will remain within RIPBS, as the surviving corporation, which will continue as a tax-exempt Rhode Island nonprofit corporation.

“Public media contributes uniquely and substantially to the quality of life in Rhode Island, and its ongoing vitality is critical,” Neronha said in a statement. “For many Rhode Islanders, PBS and The Public’s Radio have been important local sources of media and as a new combined entity, they will be able to sustain the value they contribute to our state.” 

The merger application was first submitted to Neronha’s office on Nov. 16, 2023, and was approved by the Federal Communications Commission on Jan. 5. Supplemental materials were filed with Neronha’s office on Jan. 12. After the application was deemed complete on Feb. 7, Neronha had 180 days to OK it after a review process which included public hearings. One in-person session was held Feb. 20, while written comments were accepted through Feb. 29.   

The merger decision document — which is 17 pages long, or over 400 with a series of appendices that includes the original application — noted that all nine public comments received were  supportive.  

Stephen Provazza, assistant attorney general, and Alex Carnevale, special assistant attorney general of the Public Protection Bureau, led a review of 31 statutory criteria to determine the merger’s legality and feasibility. After reviewing topics like governance, valuation, due diligence, and possible conflicts of interest, the attorney general’s office decided “the merger is likely to constitute a community benefit,” a news release said. 

PBS and The Public’s Radio will need to formalize their incorporation by filing with the Secretary of State’s Office. Content at the two outlets will remain the same in the immediate future. The newly fused organization will soon “create even more dynamic stories, delivered across more channels,” a PBS news release stated.



Rhode Island Current is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Rhode Island Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Janine L. Weisman for questions: Follow Rhode Island Current on Facebook and Twitter.