Mercer to take over WRWR-TV’s programming next week

Mercer University is about to get into the TV business.

The university is set to take control of WRWR-TV that broadcasts from Warner Robins and move the station to its Macon campus, where it will air cultural programs from abroad and serve as a teaching ground for the Center for Collaborative Journalism, Mercer’s partnership with The Telegraph and Georgia Public Broadcasting.

The station is being donated as a philanthropic gift to the university by its owners, state Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, and Dr. Joe Sam Robinson.

Larry Brumley, Mercer’s chief of staff, said attorneys are currently working on the contract. He said Mercer will take over programming early next week.

“It will become, in time, part of the Center for Collaborative Journalism,” he said. “The process will take several months. We want to move (the station’s office) here in the next several months.”

Brumley said the plan is to move the station into the building that currently houses the College Hill Alliance and GPB.

“The details are still being worked out,” he said.

Programs for the channel will include English-language news and cultural programs from across the globe, including Russia, France and Kazakhstan. The programming will be offered through the MHz Networks, which offers similar programming for Stanford University and public broadcasting stations, Brumley said.

The station currently isn’t available on satellite systems but will be available through Cox Communications, ComSouth cable and a few other smaller Middle Georgia cable systems, Brumley said.

Staton said getting FCC approval can take 60 to 90 days, so Mercer will operate under a limited marketing agreement, which will allow the school to take over on a temporary basis.

Staton said the direction the university has taken under university President Bill Underwood has grabbed his attention.

“We’ve been very impressed with what is happening in Mercer,” said Staton, who added that the deal has been several months in the making. “They’re on a huge trajectory. We’re very impressed with the Center for Collaborative Journalism and the plans the president has for that program. (Robinson and I) felt like this is a great gift to the community.”

WRWR-TV was part of Georgia Eagle Media Inc. and began airing Sept. 17, 2010, according to its website. The deal with Mercer calls only for the TV station, not any of Georgia Eagle Media’s radio stations.

Over time, Brumley said, Mercer will produce original news content and air cultural and sports events that take place on campus. He isn’t certain if the sports programming will include Mercer football and men’s basketball, since those programs are part of a contract with ESPN3.

Eventually, the station will be an outlet for students to produce original content and learn about running a TV station, said CCJ director Tim Regan-Porter.

“I think it’s going to be great for the CCJ especially,” he said. “For the students that we’re recruiting, even if they aren’t interested in TV production, they will have the option, and I think it’s exciting for our current students who appreciate the option. We’ll be able to do some original programming. It’s exciting what we’ll be able to do to delve in-depth into issues facing the community.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.