Bruce L. Christensen, a native Utahn who is president of the Public Broadcasting Service, admits he worries about a different bottom line than do most business leaders.
"Creating programs designed to help people improve their lives - that's our bottom line. And while we must operate in the black, our mission is programs that make a difference."Christensen made that statement as he received the annual Outstanding Business Leader Award this weekend from the Washington BYU Managment Society, a group of Brigham Young University alumni and friends in Washington. Other recipients have been J.W. Marriott, president of the Marriott Corp., and Nolan Archibald, president of Black & Decker Corp.
Christensen, PBS president since 1984, said he has found many "management myths" in his career, including the belief that the marketplace is the best regulator of public and private operations - including TV programming.
He said, "Public television's value to our society is like that of public schools and public libraries" - and is not best regulated by the marketplace.
"Public television's bottom line is service. Commercial television's value rests in its extraordinary capability to make money," Christensen said.
While he said making money is not bad, "it requires mass audiences, which are known by us in public television as `eyeballs for advertisers.' Trash television has been created in a pursuit of those eyeballs."
Christensen added, "Non-commercial television's value to society is that it doesn't use the marketplace to make its programming decisions. Rather, it uses the most powerful medium of our age to enlighten, enrich and educate.
"Public television is a civilizing force, not a market force, in our society."
To help meet such goals he said some new PBS programs this year will include: "All Our Children" about the crisis the nation faces in raising its children; "The Astronomers," a series on those who explore the universe; and "Columbus - the Age of Discovery," celebrating the 500th anniversary of America's discovery.
Of course, PBS will continue such programs as "Sesame Street," "Mr. Rogers," "Frontline," "Nova," "Mystery," and "Nature."
Christensen said, "I simply couldn't ask for a better or more rewarding job managing anything else on this planet."
Christensen is a native of Clearfield and a graduate of the University of Utah with a master's degree from Northwestern Univeristy. He was a reporter for KSL and managed KBYU TV and Radio at BYU and KUED-TV and KUER Radio at the University of Utah before coming to Washington.