Cronkite News, the news subdivision of Arizona PBS produced by faculty and students at ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, will be switching Arizona PBS channels from the main channel to one of its digital subchannels, PBS World.
The broadcast show, which covers news, business and sports from Arizona, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., currently airs at 4:30 p.m. every weekday on Arizona PBS's main channel, 8.1. The newscast reairs at 10:30 p.m. on that same channel. The show also airs on one of its digital subchannels, PBS World, on channel 8.3, at 7:30 p.m.
According to Arizona PBS' TV schedule, starting May 30, Cronkite News will only air on PBS World at 7:30 p.m. At the start of Spring 2023, Cronkite News began airing at 4:30 p.m. on 8.1 instead of 5 p.m. as it had been previously.
A digital subchannel is a transmission additional to a broadcast network's main signal that provides more content but is not usually available through satellite TV providers like DIRECTV or DISH. Arizona PBS World is on 8.3 with antenna, Cox 88, CenturyLink Prism 20, Suddenlink (Northern AZ) 143 and Orbitel Maricopa 212.
Arizona PBS and ASU have collaborated since the launch of the TV station over 60 years ago. The channel currently reaches nearly 2 million Arizona homes. The reason for the switch remains unclear.
In an email to Cronkite faculty and staff April 4, Cronkite Dean Battinto Batts wrote "This move is precipitated by the station being engaged in the process of evolving and expanding its content offerings to serve the needs of its audiences and donors."
When asked about the reasons for the channel change, Cronkite News Executive Editor Christina Leonard declined to comment; ASU Media Enterprise Managing Director Mi-Ai Parrish and Arizona PBS General Manager Adrienne Fairwell referred The State Press to ASU Media Relations.
Arizona PBS continues to be owned and operated by ASU with Fairwell reporting to Parrish, according to an email statement from an ASU spokesperson.
The change comes a year into Fairwell's tenure and almost two years into Batts' tenure. Founding Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan was the CEO of Arizona PBS, but the roles of Cronkite dean and Arizona PBS CEO separated after the removal of Sonya Forte Duhé as dean.
In summer 2020, Duhé was set to be the next Cronkite School dean after Callahan when she was removed from the position following reports of an alleged history of making racist and homophobic remarks to her former students.
In an email, Batts said Cronkite provides Arizona PBS with content the station can distribute across channels. Cronkite News is a professional program at the school, providing students with experience in pitching stories, getting assignments, reporting and producing as well as being edited under deadline. Students receive credit based on the number of days they participate and are able to accumulate experience and bylines.
"The relationship between Cronkite, Cronkite News and Arizona PBS continues to be one of collaboration," Batts said in the email.
Arizona PBS faced backlash earlier this academic year during the gubernatorial race between Democrat Katie Hobbs and Republican Kari Lake. After Hobbs rejected an invitation to debate against Lake, both were scheduled to have individual interviews airing on the TV station.
Lake canceled her Arizona PBS interview after learning Hobbs would also be getting a chance to speak on the station. It is unclear who made the decision to allow the candidates to speak individually, but ASU President Michael Crow defended the decision in an October 2022 meeting with The State Press, saying Arizona PBS has to be "fair and balanced in all things that we do."
Edited by Shane Brennan, Piper Hansen, Greta Forslund and Anusha Natarajan.