PBS CEO Paula Kerger discusses running successful non-profit media

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CEO and president of Public Broadcast Service (PBS) Paula Kerger vists UM to discuss the media industry Monday afternoon. Erum Kidwai // Staff Photographer

CEO and president of Public Broadcast Service (PBS) Paula Kerger vists UM to discuss the media industry Monday afternoon. Erum Kidwai // Staff Photographer

The CEO and president of Public Broadcast Service (PBS) Paula Kerger, who runs a not-for-profit that expands media across platforms, visited the University of Miami to discuss the media industry in the digital age. PBS is a unique television service provider in that it is a public, not-for-profit broadcasting service. Its revenue comes primarily from taxes and philanthropy, as opposed to private investments. Kerger embraces this as a reason to focus exclusively on satisfying the viewers.

“At the end of the day, the work that we do is really judged on the impact. We’re not delivering to a shareholder or a stockholder in any way,” Kerger said in an interview with student media. “We are in service to the American public.”

Kerger joined PBS in 2006 as its sixth president. She believes they have created a strong trust with the American public.

“That’s the thing I’m the proudest of … It really underscores the authenticity of the content that we produce and I think it enables us to actually do the kind of work we do, because people trust us,” she said. “They trust that we are going to get the story right … and they trust that at the end of the day, what we are principally concerned about is serving the public, not selling to it.”

Shows such as “Sesame Street” and “Clifford the Big Red Dog” may come to mind when one thinks of PBS, but the station extends far beyond kids programming. As a matter of fact, they broadcast such a wide variety of content that about 80 percent of people watch them at some point, according to Kerger. This prevalence, along with content diversity, can be largely attributed to the number of platforms on which PBS is broadcast.

Kerger emphasized the importance of being broadcast over a number of platforms in attempt to reach new audiences.

“We are very focused in making sure that we are every place where viewers might expect to find content. So that means we are on television, AppleTV and Hulu, Netflix … and we are also available in streaming video, so there’s an app for your tablet as well as your smartphone,” she said. “We go back to the time when we were on a channel that you physically had to get up and cross the room in order to change.”

Kerger also spoke about diversity in America and its congruence with diversity across media channels.

“We hear many languages and accents, and there’s definitely a place for many voices in public broadcasting,” she said. “We are interested in really reflecting the country.”

 

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