Detroit Public Television outsources programming to Public Television Programming Service

By Ben Mook

Starting Tuesday, Detroit Public Television is outsourcing programming functions to the Tampa, Fla.–based Public Television Programming Service as part of a corporate restructuring announced last week.

Detroit Public Television CEO Rich Homberg announced the changes in a memo to employees March 28. The decision to outsource programming brought with it elimination of the positions of Dan Gaitens, longtime director of programming, and Joann Havel, assistant director of programming, effective Friday.

In addition to the programming change, Homberg announced the creation of a new communications department. The department will be headed by a newly hired manager scheduled to start April 21. The station also hired digital, print and broadcast specialists for the department.

Jeff Forster, executive v.p. of productions and operations at Detroit Public Television, said working with an outside vendor did not mean that the station would cede control of its programming. The change will not affect the station’s airing of local and national productions, he said, and PTPS will recommend scheduling while the station retains final control.

“Some people are concerned that this will take the programming decisions out of our hands, and that’s not the case,” Forster said. “They’re going to make recommendations, and if we don’t agree with something, we’ll make changes.”

“There is a lot of production that goes on at this station, and it doesn’t make a difference if the person making the schedule is here in Detroit or is down in Florida,” he said.

The decision came after a six-month review of programming and communications functions at the station. While the station is financially healthy, this route seemed best for its long-term health, Forster said.

“We’re not making this decision because we need to make cutbacks,” Forster said. “It’s to make us more efficient. The people who were doing it before did a fine job, and that had no bearing at all on the decision.”

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