Maine licensees approve merger
The licensees of Maine's two public telecasters have approved a merger between Maine Public Broadcasting Network and WCBB, Lewiston. Operation under a new nonprofit licensee, Maine Public Broadcasting Corp., is expected to begin July 1 .
The new outfit will run the University of Maine's existing four-station PTV network and five-station radio network as well as WCBB, which is now licenseed to a group controlled by Bates, Bowdoin and Colby colleges.
The two public TV operations shared mostly the same programming, including local productions, and also overlapped significantly in coverage area around Portland in southern Maine.
But the consolidation may actually increase PTV program variety. Robert Gardiner, g.m. of WCBB, says the new licensee may maintain a separate program schedule on the university's Channel 26 in southern Maine, which would provide the foundation for a second program network available on many cable systems.
Gardiner expects no further layoffs to accompany the merger. The university system lost 13 positions in recent months, he said. He says the licensee will retain TV studios in Lewiston as well as Bangor and Portland, and is counting on continued state funding.
The new licensee will be governed by a new board including three university trustees, the university's chancellor and the presidents of the three private colleges that now run WCBB, plus eight to 12 members to be chosen from the public, according to Gardiner.
Maine Public Broadcasting Network and independent public TV station WCBB said Sept. 23 they have opened discussions on increased cooperation and possible consolidation. The two organizations already freely exchange locally produced programs.
The network, which operates four public TV stations and five public radio stations, is licensed to the University of Maine. WCBB, Lewiston, is licensed to Colby-Bates-Bowdoin Educational Telecasting Corp., an outgrowth of three private colleges near Portland. Managers said further cooperation would increase local production and boost efficiency.
Edward Winchester, general manager of the Maine network, says he's glad the talks have begun. ``It should have happened a long time ago.''
Print version of stories were briefs and did not have headlines.
Web page posted May 16, 2008
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