Current Online

Top two executives will leave Dallas station

Originally published in Current, May 13, 1996

Richard Meyer and Susan Harmon are quitting the top two jobs at KERA-FM/TV in Dallas, and Meyer is taking a Fulbright scholarship teaching position for a year in Taiwan. Harmon, his wife, will accompany him.

Donald K. Boswell, v.p. of marketing and corporate development, will serve as acting president, starting Sept. 1 [1996], when Meyer leaves.

KERA tripled its budget during Meyer's 14 years at its helm, while putting a second public TV channel on the air and recently completing a new headquarters building--all the while without running a deficit, according to the station. Board Chairman Irwin Grossman praised Meyer and Harmon for their "superb leadership.''

Meyer and KERA Board leaders told reporters that his departure was not related to press reports last summer and fall that made an issue of his compensation level, his business and vacation time spent away from the office, and his cancelation of regular local TV programming.

Meyer, 63, will teach at the National Chengchi University in Taiwan for the year, with a Fulbright stipend of about $30,000 while continuing to serve KERA as an advisor, and he will offer to maintain a relationship with the station after returning to Dallas, he told the Dallas Morning News.

He won't be coming back to his old job. "The Executive Committee and the board felt like obviously you can't do without your two top leaders for a year,'' said Richard Rogers, a Dallas attorney and KERA Board member.

The teaching position will also let Meyer live nearer his son, Mahlon, who works in Taiwan at a station associated with the Broadcasting Corp. of China.

Meyer has been teaching on the side in Dallas. He has taught media courses at the University of Texas, Dallas, and at the University of North Texas, Denton, according to station spokeswoman Jonnie England.

England said a professor from National Chengchi University met Meyer during a U.S. tour more than a year ago, and the university had invited him to apply for the Fulbright. The scholarship came through early in April, she said, and he soon notified the board of his plans. Meyer and Harmon announced their plans to the KERA staff April 24.

Rogers, chair of the committee that will seek Meyer's successor and son of early PBS leader Ralph Rogers, said Current's recent feature article on executive salaries dealt with issues that were resolved months ago at KERA, but the appearance of the article just before Meyer's resignation gives an "unfortunate'' impression that the issues and the resignation were related.

Rogers said the board last fall had an independent accounting firm examine all of Meyer's expense statements, vacation records and other documents. "The board was well satisfied that the complaints were unfounded,'' Rogers said.

Critics of Meyer suspected that the board showed Meyer the door, or declined to take him back after a year in Taiwan. "There's obviously something there,'' said a former staffer, who admitted to having no idea what it was.

Meyer and Harmon individually had operated prominent stations before coming to Dallas. Meyer managed KCTS in Seattle before joining KERA in April 1982. Harmon managed WAMU-FM in Washington, D.C., for 11 years before coming to Dallas in November 1982.

Harmon's management duties will be split between Rick Tracy, v.p. of finance and administration, and FM manager Jeff Luchsinger, according to England.

. To Current's home page
. Earlier news: Executive salaries became an issue in Twin Cities as well, though few in the public seemed concerned, 1996.

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