APTS awards include new Pillar of Public Service honor

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Wisconsin Public Television's Malcolm Brett accepts the first Pillar of Public Service Award from Ronnie Agnew, left, APTS Board professional vice chair, and APTS President Pat Butler. (Photo: APTS)

Wisconsin Public Television’s Malcolm Brett, center, accepts the first Pillar of Public Service Award from Ronnie Agnew, left, APTS Board professional vice chair, and APTS President Pat Butler. (Photos: Phil Humnicky)

A new public service award and several annual honors were presented during this week’s Public Media Summit sponsored by America’s Public Television Stations.

The winner of the inaugural Pillar of Public Service Award is Malcolm Brett, director of broadcast and media innovations for Wisconsin Public Television. The honor recognizes “contributions of an extraordinary leader in one of public television’s three pillars of public service: education, public safety and civic leadership.”

In presenting the award, APTS President Pat Butler said, “Malcolm’s remarkable leadership has resulted in several groundbreaking and novel initiatives about and for veterans,” including LZ Lambeau in 2010, which drew some 70,000 participants, and a three-hour documentary, Wisconsin Vietnam War Stories, with personal stories from Vietnam veterans. Several other stations have since launched similar work with veterans based on WPT’s template.

“We are gratified by the number of stations around the country who have taken up this work,” Brett said. “We feel privileged to contribute to the recognition and support of our veterans, and to contributing to dialogue around veterans’ issues in service to them and to the communities they return to.”

Butler said that Brett’s commitment to civic leadership “has helped citizens and communities understand the issues veterans face locally and regionally, and enabled them to develop solutions based on facts and rooted in community partnerships.”

This year’s recipient of the David J. Brugger Lay Leadership Award is the National Friends of Public Broadcasting, a 46-year-old organization that promotes volunteerism in public media.

National Friends of Public Broadcasting Chair Dorothy Pacella and David Brugger.

National Friends of Public Broadcasting Chair Dorothy Pacella and David Brugger.

Butler cited National Friends Chair Dorothy Pacella, who connected National Friends to the grassroots advocacy campaign Protect My Public Media “to significantly engage local station volunteers across the country to grow grassroots supporters of public media.”

“From volunteers’ presence at community fairs and festivals to advocating for public media funding in both the halls of Congress and at state capitols,” Butler said, “National Friends’ efforts are unwavering and extraordinarily effective.”

Pacella accepted the award on behalf of National Friends “and the thousands of public media volunteers across the country,” she said. Pacella noted that it was Brugger, APTS’ president in 1995, who specifically called on National Friends to rally when lawmakers threatened to end federal funding for public broadcasting.

This year’s National Advocacy Award goes to Ronnie Agnew, executive director of Mississippi Public Broadcasting, for furthering public television’s legislative goals and marshaling grassroots support.

Butler noted Agnew’s “critical engagement” with the Mississippi Congressional delegation, particularly with Republican Sen. Thad Cochran on Ready To Learn funding. Also, Butler said, Agnew’s efforts “to highlight the need for funding for the public television interconnection system were critical to securing funding for that project.”

In accepting the award, Agnew thanked “the public broadcasting family who have worked tirelessly, from making Hill visits to organizing letter-writing and phone campaigns. They have selflessly given of themselves for the good of the system.”

Another National Advocacy Award winner is Jamie Waste, executive director of Alaska Public Broadcasting, whom Butler referred to as “a tireless advocate for public broadcasting, helping to advance the ever-growing bipartisan support of public broadcasting in Congress.”

Waste said that the engagement in public media by Alaskans “as listeners, viewers, participants and advocates is reflected in supportive positions taken by our congressional delegation members.”

APTS also presented three Champions of Public Broadcasting Awards, which go to political leaders and others who safeguard support to public broadcasting. This year’s recipients:

  • Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, which oversees the House’s funding for CPB;
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, who helped preserve public television’s Ready To Learn early education program; and
  • Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), who serves on the Senate Finance Committee and also was instrumental in saving Ready To Learn.