TCA 2018: PBS’s Kerger Talks Importance of Diversity

Beverly Hills, Calif. — PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger talked about the importance of diversity at the organization during the organization's portions of the 2018 Television Critics Association summer press tour Monday.

“We always try to be reflective of the communities that we serve and so this is something that we pay attention to quite carefully both in front of and behind the camera,” said Kerger. “So if you look at the range of programs … We are very mindful and purposeful about how we try to make sure that people can see themselves reflected in the work that we do.” 

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Small and big kids alike can see themselves in series such as Let's Go Luna!, a PBS Kids series about a wombat from Australia, a butterfly from Mexico, and a frog from the U.S.; No Passport Required, where chef Marcus Samuelsson takes viewers across the country to explore food in immigrant cultures; Breaking Big, which explores what made the world's influencers who they are; and Victoria, a scripted series about Britain's Queen Victoria. 

PBS’s latest executive addition is Perry Simon, who will head programming starting in September.

“I think there are a lot of people [who] are extraordinarily talented media executives,” said Kerger of the decision to hire Simon. “But for someone to work well at PBS, you have to truly believe in the possibilities of what we do and we saw that in Perry.” 

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Simon has a heavy background in drama, serving as general manager of BBC America from 2010 to 2015. Some of the titles he shepherded at BBC America include Orphan Black, Luther, The Hour and Broadchurch. But don’t expect to see only drama on PBS.

“We’re obviously looking for new and compelling drama,” said Kerger. “But we’re really looking for a range of programs that we don’t see other places.”

Kerger has long championed the arts with the addition of Simon, who serves on the board of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, she sees that continuing. 

Her inspiration for PBS, she said, is to help viewers discover the great art across the country and to help viewers "see the creativity that exists in all of us."

Jessika Walsten

Jessika is an analyst for TVREV and Fabric Media. She previously served in various roles at Broadcasting + Cable, Multichannel News and NextTV, working with the brands since 2013. A graduate of USC Annenberg, Jessika has edited and reported on a variety of subjects in the media and entertainment space, including profiles on industry leaders and breaking news.