Dean of Annenberg to chair Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Facing a rapidly changing media industry, Ernest J. Wilson III, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and the newly elected chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, hopes to make public media once again a vehicle for civic discourse.

Elected chairman last week, Wilson is the longest serving member currently on the board of the CPB, a non-profit corporation established by the federal government aimed at promoting public media services for United States citizens.

Taking charge · Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III was elected chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting last week. - Mannat Saini | Daily Trojan

Taking charge · Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III was elected chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting last week. - Mannat Saini | Daily Trojan

“The CPB is supposed to foster civic engagement, education … news and entertainment and culture through noncommercial media,” Wilson said. “At the highest level, the goal is to help Americans lead more democratic, informed and satisfying lives.”

Wilson said there are three goals he intends to pursue during his one-year term as chairman — increasing dialogue, bringing public media into the digital age and improving the diversity of its content and audience.

“Public media is at a crossroads, beset with many technological, demographic and economic challenges,” Wilson said. “My goal is to pursue three themes — greater dialog with the relevant publics, more digital media and greater diversity in the content, audience and management of the system.”

Wilson’s colleagues at Annenberg lauded his in-depth knowledge of the media and said he was the perfect candidate to lead the CPB.

“He’s extremely bright and knowledgeable about media issues and has a deep commitment to public media, especially media functioning with the public interest in mind,” said Geneva Overholser, director of Annenberg’s School of Journalism.

Kay Heitzman, executive director of public affairs and special events at Annenberg, said Wilson is a great collaborator and a great thinker.

“He has a broad perspective on global communication and has many wonderful traits that I am sure helped him to become the chairman,” she said.

As chairman, Wilson will set the agenda for the CPB and occasionally act as a spokesperson. He said he is hoping to drive the CPB toward discovering ways of using noncommercial media to improve the lives of Americans in the present economic crisis.

Previously, Wilson served on the CPB board as the chair of the Digital Media Committee and of the Public Awareness Committee.

Already, the CPB has supported workshops, seminars and other activities instructing people on how to deal with the mortgage crisis. The CPB has also provided funding to local radio stations. Wilson, however, is hoping to find ways to use digital media to make an even greater difference in people’s lives.

Wilson said his new position will not take him away from his duties at Annenberg.

“It won’t affect the time commitment much, since I have been chairing the most active committee on the CPB Board — the new Digital [Media] Committee — and have already been devoting some time to it,” he said.

In fact, Wilson expects the chairmanship to enhance his contributions to Annenberg.

“By chairing a public media company, I am learning a lot about the real-world challenges and opportunities that face managers and employees, lessons I bring back to help shape our curriculum and how we train our students to succeed in this fast-changing world,” he said.

Overholser shared Wilson’s view on the value of working on various media boards.

“Many of us serve on several boards, and being on several boards brings richness to our work,” she said. “We will greatly benefit from the richness this appointment will add to his work.”

Wilson also hopes his appointment will be good for Annenberg.

“My new position has already modestly enhanced the visibility of the Annenberg School, as I can see from the number of congratulatory messages I have received from all across the country that say that both institutions should benefit from my new position,” he said.