NEW YORK (AP) – PBS said Thursday it had received a grant to plan a new cable network for public affairs programming, which it hopes to start early in 2005.

Tentatively called PBS Public Square, it will mostly air reruns of PBS programs such as “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” “NOW with Bill Moyers” and talk shows with Charlie Rose and Tavis Smiley.

A $200,000 grant from the journalism-oriented John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has set the plan in motion. PBS President Pat Mitchell said the Public Broadcasting Service will probably need more than $25 million to get PBS Public Square operating.

PBS already operates two offshoots seen on satellite systems or digital cable: PBS Kids offers children’s programming and the lesser-seen PBS You provides adult education programs.

Mitchell said she envisions PBS Public Square as providing “programming that enlightens and engages and doesn’t raise the blood pressure. It’s one area where we can clearly claim to be executing and delivering on our mission – to inform and engage citizens,” she said. “This is a space where we can really deliver where nobody else is going to.”

The former CNN executive has sought to increase public affairs programming since joining PBS. Smiley’s nightly talk show began this month, and a new show with CNN’s bow-tied conservative commentator Tucker Carlson has been announced.

The public affairs schedule on PBS won’t be affected by PBS Public Square. Replaying the shows several times on a second channel allows PBS a greater return on the investment of producing them.

PBS Public Square will also be an outlet for international documentaries, as seen now on “Wide Angle,” and give a national audience to more regional public affairs programs produced by PBS member stations, she said.

AP-ES-01-08-04 1636EST

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