Four emergency requests from NewsHour bring $3 million from PBS to help pay bills

By Dru Sefton

Executives from MacNeil/Lehrer Productions have asked PBS officials for “emergency $1 million infusions so they could pay the NewsHour bills” four times in recent months, according to the New York Times. The newspaper quotes unnamed “public television employees” as saying that the PBS NewsHour received at least $3 million, which went toward a $7 million deficit on the program’s $28 million budget this year.

The story also noted that the nightly news program was criticized in a confidential May 2012 report commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a major supporter of the program, which concluded that the show needed to “modernize news gathering production.”

The Gates Foundation, whose $3.56 million, three-year grant to NewsHour to cover global health expired in December 2011, “has yet to return as a supporter,” the story said.

And although PBS provided money to support the program, it also wants changes in the format, including a permanent anchor or two co-anchors, according to the pubTV sources. A slate of rotating anchors have hosted the show since Jim Lehrer departed two years ago.

Meanwhile, PBS has also invested $3 million in the new PBS Weekend NewsHour, reportedly launching this fall produced by WNET in New York City. The public TV sources told the Times that PBS executives “hoped the new program would generate new models to produce a news program less expensively.”

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