Paula Kerger, executive VP and chief operating officer of Education Broadcasting System, licensee of noncommercial WNET and WLIW New York, has been named to succeed Pat Mitchell as president and CEO of PBS starting next month.
PBS had been widely expected to pick someone from within the station ranks. WNET is one of the principal programmers for the system.
Mitchell, whose contract was up in June, will head the Museum of Television & Radio in New York, starting in March.
Kerger joined the Education Broadcasting System in 1993 as VP, director of development and government affairs, for WNET, and was named VP and station manager in 2002.
Before she came to the station, she was director of principal gifts for the Metropolitan Opera.
Kerger was named unanimously by a vote of the full board at a special meeting Jan. 22 in Dallas.
Mitchell's tenure was marked by digital initiatives, the ever present battle for funding, and, most notably, the strained relationship with CPB Board Chairman Ken Tomlinson, who attempted to add more conservative shows to a service he felt tilted left.
Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press and one of Tomlinson's harshest critics, was pleased with the choice of Kergen.
“We're excited and relieved to see a committed advocate of the public interest appointed to lead PBS," he said. "After the Kenneth Tomlinson controversy, the public is demanding change, and we hope that Paula Kerger will be a strong ally to advance needed reforms.
“Public broadcasting is at a crossroads. It will continue to suffer partisan attacks and threats to its budget without policies to protect long-term funding and provide political insulation. We look forward to working with the new president to put the public back in public broadcasting."