PBS President and CEO Pat Mitchell has been head of the Public Broadcasting Service for only five years, but it hasn't taken long for her to make her mark.
Mitchell, along with fellow PBS luminary Bill Moyers, will collect her Century Award June 21. In June 2006, Pat Mitchell will officially leave PBS, and when she does, she hopes that it is in a stronger position.
After three decades as a newswoman, Mitchell arrived at PBS a little more than a year before 9/11. That event made her job even more challenging.
“With the bad economy that followed and the coming digital transition, that created some stress at the stations and at PBS,” Mitchell says. “So one of my goals since the beginning was to identify and secure new funding.”
Over the past couple of years, Mitchell has managed to set up the PBS Foundation, which can accept grants from large corporate contributors. To date, the PBS Foundation has been awarded one $10 million grant from the Ford Foundation. Another is on its way, Mitchell hints.
Now she hopes Congress creates a trust fund, with as much as $20 billion, to provide cash for non-com stations. The money would come from a portion of the revenues expected after auctions of reclaimed TV analog channels.
At the same time, Mitchell is fighting a conservative movement that says both PBS and NPR are too liberal.
She has been busy working with a group called Digital Future Initiative, led by former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale and former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt. They have taken a serious look at creating a new blueprint for public television's mission and funding opportunities. Now, in her last year at PBS, she'll travel to 60-70 cities to talk with community leaders about PBS' mission.
“I really wanted to spend the last year doing just what I'm doing: concentrating on how I can build a more sustainable future. I think one of my best assets as president and CEO is telling the story of the value of public broadcasting, because I'm absolutely passionate about it and committed to the need for a strong public broadcasting service—now more than ever.”
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