CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois' public radio and television stations are merging with stations in western and central Illinois to provide new content to five-million residents across the state’s 67 lower counties, according to Greg Petrowich, executive director of WSIU Public Broadcasting.

WSIU, based at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, operates the PBS and NPR stations WSIU-TV/FM Carbondale, WUSI-TV/FM Olney, and WVSI-FM Mt. Vernon.

It will merge with Network Knowledge, operator of PBS member stations WSEC Springfield/Jacksonville, WMEC Macomb, and WQEC Quincy, in western and central Illinois.

By pooling resources, the stations will save on facilities and licenses, and be able to expand their programming, Petrowich said.

New services will include a full-time dedicated PBS KIDS Channel, via TV and live streaming, plus Illinois PBS LearningMedia, a free collection of online teaching tools for elementary and high school educators, and PBS Ready to Learn, which provides educational programs for preschool and early elementary school children, according to Dr. Jerold Gruebel, the long-time President and CEO of the central Illinois stations, who is retiring in November as Petrowich takes over the unified operation.

The stations will also be looking to produce new local content and share already-popular local shows, Petrowich said.

Within a year, central Illinoisans will probably be enjoying Southern Illinois’s Scholastic Hi-Q academic quiz show, as Southern Illinoisans enjoy Capitol View, a weekly roundtable on Illinois politics produced by Network Knowledge.

By next week, SIU should officially hold the licenses for the central Illinois stations, Petrowich said. The university and WSIU Public Broadcasting are already installing a new master control room on the Carbondale campus that will send programming out to the five member stations.

That facility is expected to be finished by early next year, Petrowich said.

The merger is not expected to create layoffs, and it could help give SIUC a notoriety boost in central Illinois, Petrowich added.

“Now, our coverage pattern mirrors the coverage pattern of SIU,” Petrowich said, as the university has presence in central Illinois with the School of Medicine, in Springfield. “Central Illinois parents who send their students to SIU Carbondale will now be watching an SIU public TV service, promoting the university, and the things we’re doing.”

The stations are expected to operate as a unified network by next Fall.

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