Rhode Island’s two public media outlets, The Public’s Radio and Rhode Island PBS, plan to merge, creating a single entity with nearly 100 employees and an expanded capacity to produce public-interest reporting, following a vote Wednesday in support of the change by the boards of both organizations.

Supporters of the merger said it will significantly expand the reach and scale of public media in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.

“Both boards feel we’ll be stronger together,” Elizabeth Delude-Dix, board chair of The Public’s Radio and one of the co-founders of the radio station, said in an interview. “Together, we can be more relevant, more trusted, more dynamic and more responsive to the needs of our community. We can make great work go even farther.”

In a statement, Dave Laverty, chair of the Rhode Island PBS Foundation Board, said, “By combining resources and talent, we can build on our respective traditions of trust and integrity to meet audiences where they are, across platforms, to deliver rich programming that is meaningful, accessible, and inclusive. By working together, we will create an opportunity to bring a more powerful and necessary public media voice to serve our community.”

The proposed merger is subject to approval by the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office and the Federal Communications Commission. It comes as nonprofit media organizations are playing a bigger role in some states as the internet has decimated the traditional advertising base for for-profit newspapers.

“What’s very exciting about this is that we now have an opportunity to invest in things that are going to make a significant difference in the amount of local nonprofit trusted journalism that’s available here,” said Torey Malatia, president, CEO and general manager of The Public’s Radio.

“I have dedicated the last 25 years to Rhode Island PBS because I am a passionate believer in the value of public television,” said David Piccerelli, president of Rhode Island PBS. “The media landscape and the demands of our viewers have changed significantly in that time, and yet we continue to deliver award-winning programming. I am ecstatic about this merger because it enhances our ability to do just that: tell powerful stories and make an impact on our community.”

No significant broadcast changes are expected in the short term as the merger faces regulatory approval. Malatia and Piccerelli will continue in their current roles for now.

Once the merger is completed, according to a statement from both organizations, “Rhode Island PBS and The Public’s Radio will launch an inclusive engagement process to co-create a vision for a new combined public media organization focused on serving our diverse communities with quality journalism through broadcast and digital organizations.”

Malatia said talks about the radio station joining forces with Rhode Island PBS preceded his arrival at the station in 2015 and intensified over the last year.

Rhode Island PBS, also known as WSBE, has been broadcasting since 1967.

Rhode Island PBS and The Public’s Radio have won a number of awards and distinctions, including Emmys, Telly, and Edward R. Murrow awards and recognition from The Public Media Journalists Association, Scripps Howard, and the National Headliners Award among others.

The planned merger marks a big step in the evolution of The Public’s Radio, which was launched as WRNI AM in 1998, after Delude-Dix and three other individuals challenged a status quo in which Rhode Island was one of the only states without its own public radio station.

From its early years, when it broadcast on three separate signals targeting different pockets of the state, the station has continued to grow.

In 2017, what had become Rhode Island Public Radio acquired its current flagship signal, 89.3 FM, which reaches most of Rhode and southeastern Massachusetts, and rebranded itself as The Public’s Radio. The station’s news staff has grown in recent years with the addition of bureaus in New Bedford, Newport and South County, the creation of an investigative desk, and a heightened emphasis on in-depth and investigative reporting on topics including child labor in New Bedford’s seafood industry, the challenge of overcoming addiction for homeless people in Woonsocket, and how private equity is affecting the business of healthcare in Rhode Island.

Once the merger is realized, Malatia said, it offers “the opportunity to really amplify what we are doing, I think exponentially, considering the kind of resources that would be available. By that, I mean extraordinary producers and great journalists on our side, the opportunity to do multimedia projects. I think it will increase public service from these two nonprofit organizations now becoming one nonprofit organization in ways that everyone will appreciate.”

Ian Donnis can be reached at idonnis@thepublicsradio.org.