WETA, the Arlington-based public-television station, has agreed to take over ownership of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions and its signature program, “PBS NewsHour,” in a cash-less transfer completed Wednesday.
The deal will place MLP and the NewsHour’s 110 employees under WETA, and will ensure its continued production at WETA’s studios, where it has been produced, at least in part, since 1975 when it began as “The Robert MacNeil Report.”
The news program later evolved into “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report” with the addition of co-anchor Jim Lehrer and eventually became “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.”
MacNeil retired in 1995, and Lehrer did so in 2011, but they maintained ownership of the production company with Liberty Media, a Colorado-based company that owns stakes in many TV and entertainment properties.
The program, broadcast by more than 300 PBS stations, is now co-anchored by Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff.
The asset transfer has been under discussion since October when MacNeil and Lehrer said they wanted to retire from operation of the production company.
In addition to their departure, the production company’s president and chief executive, Boisfeuillet “Bo” Jones Jr., will also retire, WETA said. Jones is a former publisher of The Washington Post.
A WETA spokeswoman, Mary Stewart, said the station intends to operate MLP and the NewsHour on a break-even basis. None of the parties disclosed the program’s financial data.
Rick Schneider, executive vice president and chief operating officer of WETA, will become president of NewsHour Productions LLC, a new, nonprofit subsidiary of WETA.
The addition of MLP and the NewsHour’s staff will increase WETA’s total employment by more than 50 percent over its current 200 employees.