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Museum Moves Toward ‘All-Digital’ Goal

Jan 16, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The appointment last week of outgoing PBS President and Chief Executive Officer Pat Mitchell to president and CEO of the Museum of Television & Radio sets the 30-year-old museum on the road to its future as “a museum without walls,” said museum board Chairman Frank Bennack Jr.

“We clearly have to become all-digital and to not only do the things from the technical point of view and work on the right issues that are related to the collections so that we are able to expand the mission beyond the four walls of this [New York] location and [the one in] Los Angeles,” Mr. Bennack said.

He said he and the board want to broaden the scope of the founding mission of preserving and making available great and telling television and radio programming by continuing to expand their conversations with international programmers and supporters, expanding public access to the museum’s archives via the Internet and furthering the dialogues the museum fosters with industry leaders, writers and talent.

“Going forward, the degree of emphasis between those various activities is part of what a long-term plan will be comprised of,” Mr. Bennack said after filling the position left open since Stuart Brotman abruptly left in June 2005.

“Like all media institutions in this kind of time of change, we have got to refocus and respond to the new opportunities,” Ms. Mitchell said, also stressing that the core missions will remain intact. “But given that a museum is much more than its four walls, we have a lot of opportunities now to become a real think tank-which is already happening with the Media Center activities.”

Accompanying the news of Ms. Mitchell’s hiring was the announcement that Christy Carpenter is moving up immediately from executive director of the museum Media Center and International Council to the newly created position of executive VP and chief operating officer.

The award-winning Ms. Mitchell, who was a network newswoman, independent producer and executive producer of original projects for Ted Turner’s cable networks before she took over PBS in 2000, does not officially report to the museum until March.

But last week’s announcement of her move indicates PBS is on the verge of naming her successor nearly a year after Ms. Mitchell announced her plans to leave the public broadcaster at the end of her contract in June 2006-and after six years of leading PBS into the digital era and through the crossfire of the country’s culture wars.

Ms. Mitchell said she carefully insulated herself from the search for her successor lest she be seen as applying pressure, but she said she believes that the search committee has identified a final candidate. The search committee is expected to offer its candidate for PBS board approval during a Jan. 22 meeting.

In the meantime, Ms. Mitchell contemplates her re-entry into New York, the capital of media moguls, after her sojourn among politicos in Washington.

Asked how politicians and moguls differ, Ms. Mitchell said, “They have different bottom lines.”

Asked for a preview of her road map for the museum, Ms. Mitchell said: “Talk to me in two months. When I get [to New York], we’re going to hit the ground running with the team, and in between now and March I’m going to be doing some strategic work with the senior team.”

What Ms. Mitchell can say now is that she saw the museum opportunity as “a great next step.”

The museum, she said, “really wants to focus more and more on a very relevant and engaged conversation about that.”