MAY 23, 2023




By Leslie Fields-Cruz

PBS is Making Refreshing Changes

Last week, two of my BPM colleagues and I, along with 1300+ other public media staffers, convened in San Diego for the PBS Annual Meeting. For those of you who don’t know, the PBS Annual Meeting screens trailers from the 2023/24 program pipeline and offers professional development workshops covering a variety of topics from audience development to fundraising strategies. When you’re not in the grand ballroom watching the sizzle reels, or in a breakout room listening to a panel, you’re attending either a breakfast/luncheon/dinner meeting, networking in the hallway between sessions, laughing with colleagues at the hotel bar, or getting your groove on at the Indies Party. It’s an extremely busy three days.

This year was different because it was the first in-person annual meeting since 2019, and boy have things changed. First off, the people have changed. Nearly 50% of attendees were first time attendees and many of those are new to the public media system. For those of us who’ve been around for a while, it was nice to see a bit more diversity in the room. Second, the content pipeline exhibited more color than ever before with Baratunde Thurston, John Leguizamo, Anna Deavere Smith, and Scott Yoo. And yo, shout out to Stanley Nelson, who appeared on stage with graphics behind him announcing the “Stanley Nelson Content Pipeline.” Stanley is working on four projects for PBS, and one of them is gonna be FUNKY!! 

From Frontline to Indie Lens, American Masters to POV, PBS team to the World team, the content pipeline is finally beginning to look like the world in which I live.

'Home Grown' conversation at 2023 PBS Annual Meeting (left-right): Stephen Gong (CAAM), Chloë Walters-Wallace (Firelight Media), Marquis Mays (filmmaker), and Zosette Guir (Detroit Public Television). Photo by Kat Walsh
(Left-right): Carol Bash, Opal H. Bennett, Brit Fryer, Asad Muhammad, and Leslie Fields-Cruz.  Photo by Kat Walsh

Despite these exciting changes, there were still occasional moments when I felt twinges of the pre-pandemic era. PBS Masterpiece series, still? Really? C’mon, the UK isn’t the only place to find dramas. Have you checked with the South African Broadcasting Company or NHK?  From what I’ve seen, younger viewers aren’t afraid to read subtitles. Nonetheless, the past few years trapped in the virtual world seems to have created the opportunity for us to establish stronger relationships with station execs. I, for one, look forward to the new possibilities.

Overall, the 2023 PBS Annual Meeting went well. I was exhausted by the end. It took me Thursday, Friday AND the weekend to decompress. But I have a long list of follow-ups, and my poor staff,  they're going to have to bear with me as I chat on and on about the many new ideas I have for collaboration and programming, all seeded at the meeting.

To my long-term colleagues across the public media system, it was great seeing you again! And to those I became acquainted with while we were all still on lock-down, it was nice to finally meet you in person. I look forward to the year ahead. 

NMCA at PBSAM_edited
Members of the National Multicultural Alliance (NMCA) with representatives from WGVU and the Executive Programming Service at the 2023 PBS Annual Meeting in San Diego. Pictured clockwise from top left: Stephen Gong (CAAM), Leslie Fields-Cruz and Kat Walsh (BPM), Jim Rademaker (WGVU), Cheryl Harisa (PIC), Sapana Sakya (CAAM), Amber McClure (PIC), Justin Bryant (Executive Programming Service), Kate Mosher (WGVU), Gloriana Paz (LPB), Phil Lane (WGVU), and Carol Bash (BPM). Photo courtesy of Kat Walsh.

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