Executive Paula Kerger exultant over 16 Emmy nominations for Downton Abbey
By: Valerie Milano -
Beverly Hills, CA (Hollywood Today) 7/22/12 -On July 21, 2012, the TCA Summer Press Tour brought PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger for a Q&A session. The exec, whose station nabbed 58 Primetime Emmy nominations, credits Downton Abbey with bringing new viewers to PBS.
“It is beautifully put together,” says CEO of PBS Paula Kerger. “It’s beautifully filmed. It has a great cast. It has a compelling story. And at the end of the day, you have to have a strong piece of content to build off of.”
“It had a natural affinity on public broadcasting,” says Kerger. “I think the audience that comes on Sunday nights for Masterpiece found it to be compelling television. But I think what happened that really caused it to really explode was social media and the opportunity that created.”
Kerger also discussed upcoming programs, including Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, which is in the works with the Fred Rogers Company, as well as perennial PBS favorite Ken Burns with The Dust Bowl.
“In October, we’ll take a look at a crucial moment in our nation’s history by exploring the Cuban missile crisis through two new programs: Cuban Missile Crisis: Three Men Go to War and Secrets of the Dead: The Man Who Saved the World,” says Kerger. “And in spring 2013, Constitution USA with NPR’s Peter Sagal comes to PBS.”
Kerger continued to highlight upcoming programming.“This fall we’ll bring together our independent film series on Monday night to make the evening a destination for film enthusiasts but also to give our stations an opportunity to connect with local filmmakers just as we did for local art and artists with our Arts Festival,” says Kerger.
Kerger went on to talk about women in PBS’s programming. “We are clearly looking for opportunities for strong female characters,” says Kerger” “Particularly what we think about as we look at building out the cast of characters around the programs is really strong girls and particularly in the math and science areas because I think that, from my perspective, as we look at ways that we can encourage girls to be interested in math and science, then we want those characters to be strongly defined.”
As expected, the topic of Fred Willard’s recent arrest for lewd conduct was addressed. Willard had been narrator of the new PBS series Market Warriors but was fired after the incident. ”PBS worried his circumstance would become a distraction to the series,” says Kerger. “Mark Walberg, who hosts Antiques Roadshow, will be handling both programs.”
Kerger addressed concerns about public television’s financial status. “Our stations across the country have had challenging times the last couple years for sure,” says Kerger. “Philanthropy is now actually going up a little bit, but during the toughest moments for the economy, that was a challenge for our stations as it has been for every nonprofit organization in this country.”
“Not all of our stations receive state funding,” says Kerger. “Our stations are organized many different ways. Some of them are community organizations. Some of them are actually part of the state, and some of them are connected to universities. So that impact has not been universal.”
Continuing the discussion about funding, and, more specifically, federal funding, Kerger shared her thoughts on the proposal from Congress to end PBS funding by 2015. “When you look at the value that the American people place on public broadcasting and the irony that in the same week that we’re awarded 58 Emmy nominations again, the question of whether a federal investment in public broadcasting is appropriate is disappointing,” says Kerger.
“The real consequence and the reason that we work so hard and fight so hard to try to hold onto our federal funding is that, if that funding was to go away, there are a number of stations that would go dark” says Kerger. “And there are a number of stations in parts of the country where the services that the public television and the public radio stations provide are so critical. And that’s really what’s at risk.”