Fellows seriously injured in rush-hour accident

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James A. Fellows, a longtime leader in public TV, remained in critical but stable condition last week after being hit by a car in Bethesda, Md., Dec. 2.


Since the accident he has had five major operations at Bethesda’s Suburban Hospital to mend broken bones and other damage.

Though he still faces many risks, doctors said last week he was trending for the better, according to Fellows’ friend Pete Willson. On Dec. 10, the attending physician smiled for the first time, Willson said.

Fellows was struck in front of his house while walking across a busy commuter route during evening rush hour. The car threw him onto its hood and carried him a few yards before stopping, according to Montgomery County Police Officer Bruce Wertz. No charges have been filed against the motorist, police said.

Update, May 21, 2008

Fellows is living in at the Millville Center, a nursing home in Millville, N.J., where he moved this spring.

He had lived more than four years at a nursing home in Potomac, Md., after serious injuries in a traffic accident and a brain bleed July 7, 2004.

The brain bleed, after seven months of slow recovery from the accident, combined with Parkinson’s Disease, left Fellows with impaired memory and limited strength.

Fellows’ family has heard from many worried friends. “The response has been how loved he was, not just everything he has done for public television,” says Karen Marx, his niece.

She expects his positive outlook to survive this setback. “He never sees the negative,” she said. “I see him in six months, enjoying talking to a physical therapist.”

Through a range of activities, Fellows is widely known in public broadcasting. He served as president of the last national organization that spoke for both public TV and radio stations, the National Association of Educational Broadcasters, a parent of PBS and NPR that folded in 1982. He also founded several service agencies in the field, including the American Center for Children and Media and Current. He continues to chair Current’s publishing committee.

As a consultant to stations Fellows has often advocated community alliances for stations and comprehensive multiple-media services.

He recently moved full-time to his Maryland home after closing Central Educational Network in Des Plaines, Ill., which operated under the name of American Telecommunications Group and housed a number of agencies.

CEN/ATG was losing money and had to close, Fellows said earlier this year. It ended its program buying and syndication services for stations and educators. Helen Marie McNeilly, v.p., said the organization may not have to file for bankruptcy and the organization’s board would make that decision. Ellis Bromberg, CEN’s last chair and g.m. of Milwaukee PTV, said the board had not met recently and said he was “not really involved” in decision-making.

A number of related projects are continuing. The American Center for Children and Media, known for the Ollie Awards it once gave out, was separately incorporated and continues to operate with offices at WTTW, Chicago. Through the Hartford Gunn Institute, also separately incorporated, Fellows continued organizing teleconferences and seminars for public TV executives.

A group of public TV stations licensed to universities, the Higher Education Telecommunications Consortium, is seeking a new organizational home since ATG closed. Mark Erstling, v.p. of APTS, said Fellows has been talking with him about APTS taking on some of HETC’s information-sharing responsibilities. HETC and other education advocates had encouraged APTS to work with university groups toward federal aid for distance education, Erstling said.

Fellows was also active with Maryland PTV, chairing its Maryland Public Broadcasting Foundation for five years.

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