The wall of Phil Meyer’s office is covered with a long roll of white paper covered with a flow chart that looks like the history of the world. It’s notes and ideas about where the new CEO of Valley PBS would like to see the station go.
At the same time, he’s bouncing back and forth to Indiana as he tries to get his family moved to Fresno. Life’s a little hectic for Meyer these days.
Before becoming only the third boss in 38 years for the local public television station (after Paula Castadio and Colin Dougherty), Meyer was station manager of WTIU in Bloomington, Ind.. He replaces Castadio, who left the station at the end of July to become vice president for university advancement at Fresno State.
Meyer wasn’t looking for a new job when he heard about the Fresno opening.
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“I was at a conference and saw a posting on the bulletin board,” Meyer says. “The way it was written was that the responsibilities interested me and it seemed like the logical next step.”
Meyer was excited about the opportunity to work with the volunteer board and to do fundraising. “Have you met people on our board? They are very friendly, very devoted and passion about the station,” Meyer says.
Meyer’s sold the board on his experience in public television. He lead a consortium of 17 Indiana public media stations in statewide collaborative opportunities. Before joining WTIU, which is owned by Indiana University, in 2001, he served as director of marketing and membership for nearly a decade at Cincinnati’s WCET.
What finally sold Meyer on Fresno was the people he met during two visits.
“Working at the school prepared me for the diverse mix here, plus our middle son has autism and I’m a firm believer in inclusion,” Meyer says. “It’s not just ethnic groups. It’s gender. It’s age. It’s income level. It’s disabilities.”
The more Meyer talked to people involved with the local station — from staff to board members — the more interested he became in the job and Fresno. Meyer says the area reminds him of the Midwest, where he has lived all his life.
Now, he’s plotted out a flow chart that covers 18 months of how he will give local viewers the best station possible. His plans include increasing locally produced programming, a task he thinks is possible because so much already is in place at KVPT.
“I looked at the Family Circle initiative (that supports children’s programming) as something I wanted to be involved with,” Meyer says.
Children’s programming is very important to the father of three.
As he settles into his new job, Meyer feels confident in the future of public television.
“Our ratings have been incredibly stable over the past 20, 25 years,” Meyer says. “The commercial broadcast networks ratings are declining. Cable channels have never had as large and audience as PBS,” Meyer says. “I also think these go in cycles and are in a new Renaissance with PBS programming with Ken Burns being so prolific. That goes along with the success of ‘Downton Abbey’ and ‘Sherlock’ along with ‘Great Performances’ and “Nova.” We have also had four or five of the top-rated kids shows is quite an achievement with the budgets we have to work with.”