WEDU PBS Partners with Ringling, Semkhor
With construction of the soundstage and post-production complex at Ringling College of Art and Design still underway and on course to be fully operational by 2017, WEDU PBS last week signed a letter of intent to partner with Semkhor Networks and the college to develop a wide range of future content utilizing the incoming facility. “There’s probably not a market outside of Tampa and St. Pete that’s more important to us than Sarasota,” says Susan Howarth, president and CEO of WEDU. “Having a home base in Sarasota makes perfect sense.”
With the first stage set to open in late 2016, the Ringling complex will eventually offer five stages and a host of post-production facilities such as editing bays and mixing booths, all available to commercial partnership with organizations open to working with Ringling students.
For WEDU, covering stories in Sarasota usually means sending a single camera or production truck to the city for a day and then leaving. “But that’s not a very efficient way to do the programming we want to do,” says Howarth, “and we’ve always been interested in doing more in Sarasota.” The last few times WEDU sent production teams to Sarasota, they ended up working at Ringling anyhow, she adds. With this more official partnership and the arrival of new resources, Howarth already plans to expand current programming such as Florida This Week, Suncoast Business Forum and Up Close to Sarasota and produce local content with the college.
Beyond that, Howarth says WEDU would be open to creating original Sarasota-specific programming and fielding ideas from student collaborators for TV or web content. “I know they’re very talented,” she said, “and will bring a lot to our productions.” And with the PBS affiliation, she adds, the opportunity exists in the future to distribute Sarasota content elsewhere.
“[WEDU is] a perfect fit and you couldn’t ask for a better first response,” said David Shapiro, founder and owner of Semkhor Networks, which has worked in partnership with Ringling College to bring commercial projects and Hollywood stars in to work with students and now with the new facility. “We’re very excited by the expertise and programming that they’re bringing.”