PBS dropping 21 staff positions, including veteran screeners

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Thirteen current staff positions and eight vacant positions are being eliminated at PBS headquarters in Arlington, Va., and six “new or restructured” positions will be added, PBS President Paula Kerger said in a letter to the system July 13.

Kerger blamed the “ongoing economic challenges faced by our system” and said PBS made the changes “to focus efforts in areas with the greatest value to the public media system in a time of budgetary constraints.”

PBS declined to verify individual departures or say what departments are affected. Several changes center on programming, which is “a key priority of the FY12 Strategic Plan,” Kerger’s letter said, “and part of a multiyear effort to transform PBS’ primetime lineup in order to grow audience and increase the amount of time viewers watch PBS programs.”

The programming community was surprised to hear that Steven Gray and two other top program screeners are gone. Gray, who had been v.p. of program development and editorial management since 1990, oversaw a staff of nine and reported directly to John Wilson, chief programming exec. Both of Gray’s senior directors of programming, Sandy Heberer and Allison Winshell, also left. Heberer, a longtime force in the department who had also served as senior director of news and information programming, was laid off. Winshell, a 13-year primetime veteran, departed June 24 but was not part of the layoffs.

PBS is advertising for two new veeps of general audience programming to support the ongoing revamp of PBS primetime.

“This was not an easy decision to make, and we wish our departing staff the best as they pursue other opportunities,” Kerger said.

Joe Miller, formerly PBS assistant publicity director, has returned to his native Philadelphia as a project manager with Stuzo/Dachis Group, a creative technology and social marketing firm. Miller had worked at PBS since 2006.

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