NBC affiliates in Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia will work with work with non-commercial outfits in those cities -- KPCC public radio, the Chicago Reporter and WHYY public radio and television, respectively -- while all of the network's owned-and-operated stations will get early access to investigative reports from the independent, nonprofit newsroom Pro Publica.
The arrangement comes as Comcast moves to fulfill its commitment to federal regulators to strengthen local, public-interest programming in the wake of its purchase of NBCUniversal earlier this year.
The partnerships also continue the trend toward content sharing throughout the media industry as operators try to trim the high costs that come with producing stories on their own. The New York Times, for example, has expanded its editions in Chicago, San Francisco and other locations via publishing partnerships with nonprofit news outlets. In Chicago, the New York Times gets local stories from the Chicago News Cooperative, while in the San Francisco area the newspaper features content from the Bay Citizen. Both of the Times partners are nonprofit, Web-based news start-ups.
In Los Angeles, Pasadena-based KPCC-FM (89.3) and KNBC-TV Channel 4 plan to use content produced by the other and, in some cases, stories that the two outlets will develop together. Details and a starting time for the joint-content programming remain to be worked out.
KPCC Chief Executive Bill Davis said the for-profit television station and his nonprofit radio outfit will be able to expand the size of their audiences and the reach of their reporting.
"We can get to the kind of investigative and enterprise stories we wouldn’t be able to singularly," Davis said.
ProPublica, a New York-based Web operation that already shares content with many news organizations, will give NBC stations an early look at databases it develops on a range of complicated subjects. Its previous projects have, among other things, showed which doctors took payments from drug companies, rated the quality of care at dialysis centers and the performance of secondary schools.
NBC stations will be able to look at ProPublica data to focus such reports on their local communities. "We put the reporting at their fingertips and they can do terrific local stories with it," said Richard Tofel, general manager for ProPublica. "We get a greater and wider impact, which is ultimately our mission."
The model for the new partnerships comes from San Diego, where the nonprofit news Internet site Voice of San Diego has worked with NBC Channel 7. Among several features the TV station gets is "San Diego Explained," a Wednesday night segment in which a reporter from the website delves deeper into local issues. This week, the program is being expanded to five parts to focus on the financial crisis in San Diego schools.
NBC pays $3,900 a month to Voice of San Diego. That does not entirely cover the website's costs, said Voice of San Diego CEO Scott Lewis. But the nonprofit benefits by expanding its audience and its profile in the San Diego area, which helps its fundraising.
NBC will not pay for content it will receive from ProPublica and KPCC, though both of the non-commercial outlets said they expected to get voluntary financial donations from the television network. The payments were not a condition of the content sharing, they said.
-- James Rainey
Photo: Bill Davis, president of Southern California Public Radio, which operates KPCC. The station plans to share content with KNBC-TV Channel 4 in Los Angeles, one of four new cooperative arrangements announced by the NBC television network. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times