Lakeshore PBS works to fill void left by WYCC

"Democracy Now" will air on Lakeshore PBS beginning Dec. 5

“Democracy Now” will air on Lakeshore PBS beginning Dec. 5

Lakeshore PBS recently announced that Democracy Now will soon be part of its lineup.

Beginning at 12 a.m. on December 5th, the program’s breaking news and in-depth feature stories will be available to Chicago TV viewers every weeknight on Ch. 56.

The show’s radio format has been airing at 1 p.m. on Lakeshore’s sister station — WLPR 89.1 — since 2015.

“It just provides an alternative news source out there,” says Lakeshore President / CEO James Muhammad. “Even when they’re covering things that other news outlets cover, Democracy Now covers points that often get missed.”

It is also the first of several programs formerly broadcast by now-shuttered WYCC Chicago that the Merrilville, IN, station hopes to pick up.

“With WYCC gone, that leaves a void but also an opportunity to do something,” Muhammad explains. “We’re trying to figure out the best way to serve Chicagoland.”

Although he looks forward to expanding Lakeshore’s coverage, Muhammad describes the situation that made it possible as a “definite loss to the community.”

James Muhammad
James Muhammad

“I’m very sad to see WYCC go,” he continues. “I’m a public TV junkie and I really appreciated their international news.”

WYCC went dark after its frequency was sold during the Federal Communications Commission’s broadcast spectrum auction. Although it had the option to withdraw if bids were too low, the station remained until the end of the process and ultimately sold for $15,959,957.

Similar frequencies sold during the auction went for at least $100 million more.

Lakeshore PBS participated in the same auction, but withdrew before entering into any sort of transaction.

“The decision was made before the auction even started,” explains Muhammad. “The FCC encouraged people to have a reserve price — you should know at what point you exit before the auction began.”

Lakeshore also attempted to coordinate a backup plan with WYCC, should one be necessary, but it did not pan out.

“I emailed general counsel on February 27 to explain that we were actively seeking a post auction sharing situation,” Muhammad continues. “They just had no interest in doing that.”

Boasting a staff of roughly 20 full and part-time employees, Lakeshore Public Media is recognized for a wide variety of content, including some of the city’s most popular how-to shows about fitness, cooking and quilting.

Muhammad, who keeps a TV tuned to the station in his office, is a huge fan of pretty much everything it offers.

“Once, the quilting show went through, like, 300 different stitches,” he explains. “It was amazing to see how complicated quilting can be.”

The station is also home to the award-winning town hall discussions of “race, justice, community, and policing” moderated by Gerard McClendon.

Besides adding Democracy Now, Lakeshore has also reconfigured its morning fitness shows and intends to expand series like Eye on the Arts and Making the Grade to include more communities.

“Chicago was public television rich,” Muhammad explains. “Three public television stations serving the area created a lot of opportunities. We’re trying to do what we can.”