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Local News Lacking Among Public Television Stations

In February 2010, University of Pennsylvania doctoral student Christopher Ali conducted a descriptive content analysis of the news and information programming of all PBS stations with available websites, which confirmed the lack of local daily public TV news.

The 170 stations were located using the “station finder” function of the PBS website (available at: http://www.pbs.org/stationfinder/index.html.) Going state-by-state, Ali looked at every listed station’s website for mention of news and public affairs programs (examining program descriptions and program guides for every day of a given week). For the 170 stations listed on PBS.org, the results were (not accounting for overlap):


  • 70 stations produced no local newscasts; 
  • 86 stations produced a weekly newsmagazine; 
  • 6 stations produced a newscast that aired one to three times per week; 
  • 13 stations produced a nightly local newscast (four times per week or more). 

Of these, 4 stations produced nightly local newscast 5 or more times a week, although these were typically narrow in focus (weather, traffic, etc.) 

Determining "local" news programming was based on two criteria: local production and a focus on local issues. Here, the most obvious programs were the nightly local newscasts, as some newsmagazines may have been produced in-house, but retained a national focus.

Visit this public media map, hosted by the National Center for Media Engagement, to click through Ali's station-by-station results geographically: