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WGBH head retires

Here's the email Henry Becton sent to staffers this morning. His resignation won't take effect until next October, when current GBH executive VP/COO Jon Abbott will take the reins. (You can get biographical details on both men here.)

Date: Thursday, December 7, 2006 8:30 AM
From: Henry Becton

TO:  ALL STAFF

 To everything there is a season, and I have decided that as I approach nearly thirty years at the helm of WGBH, the time has come to begin a transition to new leadership.  After discussion with many of our board leaders over the past few months, I announced at last night’s Board of Trustees meeting my intention to step down as president, effective next October 1st.  At my recommendation, the Board has elected Jon Abbott to succeed me on that date.  

 Following some time off then, I plan to remain at WGBH part-time to assist in strategic initiatives, development and advancement activities, to be a senior editorial advisor to top management, and to represent WGBH on a number of national public broadcasting boards.  

 Jon Abbott has done an excellent job as our executive vice president and chief operating officer during the past few years.  I believe he has the vision and leadership strengths to take WGBH to even greater public service and media prominence in the years ahead. He has my full support as well as that of the Board of Trustees, and I know you will join me in congratulating him.

 The timing is right for a number of reasons. By next summer we will have fully settled into our exciting new studio headquarters in Brighton and in September will have celebrated its public opening. We also will have completed our Breaking New Ground Campaign which is so important to our future, and which already has substantially surpassed its goal. We are in the midst of one of our most successful years in programming, with many new highlights and accolades in the local, children’s, radio and primetime TV areas. We have a great roster of new programs in the pipeline and wonderful momentum taking our content to new platforms. There also is greater alignment and collaboration among our national organizations and WGBH than ever before, which is helping accelerate our transition to new digital program services.

 As you know, Jon has played a key role in our digital transition, overseeing the largest expansion of our regional television service in three decades. Before joining us in 1998 as vice president of television stations and general manager, Jon was with PBS for six years as senior vice president for development and corporate relations, where he directed strategy for member stations across the country in their fundraising and institutional advancement. Prior to that, he spent five years managing marketing and development for San Francisco public station KQED, helping plan and launch KQED-FM‘s all news format. He got his start in broadcasting in 1981 at Columbia University station WKCR-FM where he inaugurated and produced weekly live broadcasts from The Blue Note jazz club.

 As the media landscape continues along its rapid rate of change, public media stands out in ever more dramatic contrast. It is acknowledged for the high quality of its programming on TV radio and the web, for its dedication to serving audiences as citizens rather than consumers, for its commitment to education and a safe media environment for children, and for its commitment to providing democratic access to culture and information and to strengthening our communities.  

 WGBH itself is a wonderful community.  I count myself blessed to have worked all these years alongside so many multi-talented, dedicated and exceptional colleagues.  I’m excited that starting next fall, I’ll be working to advance the WGBH mission in new ways.  And in the meantime, I’ll look forward to working with all of you as I remain fully engaged during my final year as president.

 We have set aside time this afternoon at 3pm in the Atrium to gather informally and share an opportunity to mark this significant transition for WGBH. Please join us then.

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