PBS names a woman as its next president

TV: Pat Mitchell says she won't make big changes, citing the network's identity as `a brand viewers trust.'

February 08, 2000|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

PBS yesterday reached into the ranks of the competition to name Pat Mitchell, an award-winning cable producer and executive at CNN-Time, as its new president and CEO. She is the fifth president in PBS' 30-year history and the first woman to hold that post.

The move comes at a time when the future of the Public Broadcasting Service is being questioned, in part because cable channels are providing many of the same kinds of programs PBS used to offer exclusively.

But Mitchell, 57, yesterday denied any major changes or reforms were in the works, stressing time and again during a news conference that PBS stood for something "singular, distinctive and unique.

"In an increasingly consolidated and commercialized media world, PBS remains the only broadcast service that is commercial free and free across the air. That is an enormous difference," Mitchell said.

"As consolidation increases, I think the public is going to get more and more concerned with who the information is coming from, and PBS is a brand viewers trust," she added.

"PBS is doing what it was set up to do," Mitchell said. "I think we need ... to [let] Congress, foundations and our viewers know ...the kind of job we are doing."

Documentaries produced under Mitchell's leadership at CNN have won 41 Emmys and seven Peabody Awards. She had previously worked as at NBC, ABC and CBS before joining CNN. Mitchell, who starts March 1, succeeds Ervin S. Duggan, who resigned in October. He and PBS had come under fire for sharing its membership lists with political parties and non-profit organizations.

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