PBS Reorganizes… Sundance Scribe Saturation

The Public Broadcasting System is expected to announce a management reorganization Jan. 30, and pubcaster insiders are speculating it may lead to the resignation of the system’s programming chief, Jennifer Lawson.

The structural changes will put a new layer of management between Lawson and PBS brass, according to an industry source.

Mandated by PBS president Ervin Duggan, the changes come as he completes his first year at the helm of the system. While the reorganization comes at a time when PBS is under fire from a Republican Congress, it is not viewed within PBS as any kind of capitulation to Duggan’s right-wing critics. Insiders view the move as a way for the embattled PBS prexy to consolidate his leadership of the system by putting his own team in place.

The new layer of management at PBS puts Lawson’s future there in doubt. Since she was named executive vice president of national programming in 1989, Lawson has drawn fire from PBS critics from all sides of the political spectrum.

Right-wingers have targeted her for promoting a left-wing bias in the programming she has commissioned. Meanwhile, Lawson has been charged by a raft of disgruntled producers for being too quick to kowtow to conservative critics. She came under fire when she turned down a sequel to the highly rated Emmy-winning series “Tales of the City,” after the first edition enraged conservatives with its nonchalant look at counter-culture San Francisco in the 1970s.

There has been speculation for some time that Lawson has been looking to leave PBS, perhaps to parlay the programming success she has had with such series as Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” into a studio or network job. She was much in evidence at last week’s National Assn. of Television Programming Executives convention in Las Vegas, leading to corridor talk that she was looking to make her exit into the private sector.

Neither Lawson or Duggan could be reached for comment.

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