Neal Shapiro Statement to the Community

June 1, 2020

Black Lives Matter protest at Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn on May 31. Photo: Christina Knight, WNET

Racism is a cancer in the soul of this nation. This has been an agonizing and painful week. Our hearts go out to so many, especially so for our African-American colleagues. At the same time, it is also a reminder of what drew many of us to public media–to help build a more informed country with equal justice for everyone based on understanding and mutual respect. For nearly 60 years, WNET has had a role to play…covering the history and the issues involved, providing perspective, inspiration and education that bring about change. In today’s critical times, our mission of providing a safe space to bring people together, to have tough but respectful conversations, has never been more critical.

So, as we mourn the deaths of so many Black Americans, we must also look ahead to the role we can play as public media providers. Here are our plans at the moment. More program announcements will follow.

NEWS – As a trusted source of news and information, all our news programs, on the air, and online, are concentrating on the topics of race, justice, equality and the relationship with law enforcement, just as they did all weekend long. Our new NPR station, WPPB-FM 88.3 on Long Island, will carry a two-hour program tonight, “America: Are we Ready: A National Call-in about Racism, Violence and our Future Together.” You can listen on-air in Eastern Long Island or online at

Our community engagement team has been working with community organizations to increase dialogue and bring new voices to the conversation. We had planned for an in-person town hall at BRIC media in Brooklyn on April 7 about systematic racism which was cancelled because of the coronavirus. We will instead produce virtual town hall meetings this week to air on MetroFocus. We will also be re-airing our documentaries The Talk, about the conversations African-American parents have with their sons on all three of our stations (June 8 at 9 p.m. on THIRTEEN; June 18 at 10 p.m. on WLIW21 and June 22 at 8 p.m. on NJTV), and Frontline’s “Policing the Police” about events in Newark, NJ, on WLIW21 Wednesday night at 10 p.m.

ARTS – The arts offer another vital perspective into social justice. ALL ARTS, our multi-platform arts and culture channel will continue its ongoing relationship with organizations like Harlem Stage. We will grow our platform to bring new artistic voices and perspectives into the public square. We will also re-broadcast “Antigone in Ferguson” a play about the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri and “Twilight: Los Angeles”, Anna Deavere Smith’s one-woman performance about the Rodney King trial and its aftermath. The American Masters film on Toni Morrison, who so powerfully wrote about the African-American experience, will air at the end of June.

EDUCATION – Our education team will make available a rich library of digital learning assets, including guides for parents to talk with children about these issues.

This is also a learning moment for the nation and for us. WNET will continue to look inward, to pursue diversity, equity and inclusion in our programming and in our workforce.

In times like this, we long to reach out, to make connections. The coronavirus has made that even more difficult. Although so many of us are still physically separated, our goal, as a public media provider is to bring Americans together, to provide dialogue and understanding, so that we all realize that our diversity can be our strength.


Neal Shapiro is President and Chief Executive Officer of WNET

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