Patrick Butler, president and CEO of America’s Public Television Stations, will retire next year.
Butler has led the nonprofit advocate for public media since 2011. He plans to stay in his role until his successor is hired, but he will leave no later than the end of next year, according to a news release.
“Pat Butler has been an innovator, a builder and a committed public servant throughout his career, and it is precisely these talents and instincts that America’s public television stations have needed most during his transformative years with us,” said APTS Board Chair Franz Joachim, GM and CEO of New Mexico PBS.
Joachim also said in the release that Butler “created scalable solutions that stations of every size could use to serve their communities. And weaving those successes together allowed the APTS team to make a compelling case before Congress and state capitols that appeals to the entire political spectrum.”
Butler joined APTS’ board in 2009 before leading the organization. When he was hired in the fall of 2010 to lead what was then named the Association of Public Television Stations, former Maryland Public Television President Rob Shuman touted his friend’s “amazing connections,” adding that Butler was “probably the most humble guy I know.”
Butler’s connections have been handy during his tenure. He helped advocate for public media receiving $250 million in emergency financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Butler also focused on urging congressional leaders to authorize an increase in CPB’s federal appropriations. Following the Great Recession, CPB saw level funding for approximately a decade, and the advance appropriations have increased in recent years.
In 2016, APTS helped guide public media through its first-ever auction of television spectrum. Participating licensees invested proceeds from the FCC auction in local programming and educational services. APTS secured additional funds from Congress to help finance the involuntary repacking of stations to a narrower band of spectrum, enabling more wireless services for consumers.
The same year, APTS and PBS also announced a successful renewal of PBS’ multiyear carriage agreements with what is now known as the The Internet & Television Association, assuring public television stations carriage of their multicast channels as well as their primary signals.
With public media partners, APTS rebranded and relaunched its 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting campaign as Protect My Public Media, an advocacy network mobilized to encourage Congress to keep supporting public media.
According to APTS, Butler helped the organization reach record membership of 85% of all public television stations and increased its net assets by more than 250%. He also helped reinvent the organization’s Capitol Hill Day into the annual APTS Public Media Summit, held in Washington, D.C.
Starting in 2020, Butler began publicly advocating for the creation of the Next Generation Warning System, now funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to improve public alerting systems. The federal government has allotted $96 million for the program since 2022.
APTS is now focused on helping stations transition to the new ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard.
“It has been my great honor to advance the cause of America’s public television stations during a period of extraordinary challenge and opportunity,” Butler said in the news release. “I am grateful for the support of a visionary board of trustees, a station community profoundly dedicated to public service, and the wonderful people with whom I am privileged to serve at APTS Global Headquarters.”
Butler began his career as a newspaper reporter in Chattanooga, Tenn. He later worked as a speechwriter for President Gerald Ford, then spent nearly a decade as an aide to Republican Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr.
Butler worked for the Washington Post starting in 1991 and retired as SVP in 2008. He was responsible for public policy, business development, community service and special projects. He later served as a private consultant to the company. Before joining APTS, Butler also served as chair of the Maryland Public Television Foundation.
Butler is a founder of the Pew Research Center, originally known as the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press. He also helped provide funding for Ken Burns’ The Civil War while serving as chair of the National Council on the Humanities.