Public Broadcasting Service programming czar Jennifer Lawson and her top deputy, John Grant, are both ankling the network effective March 10.
Lawson’s departure had been widely anticipated following a sweeping staff reorganization initiated by PBS president Ervin Duggan Jan. 30. The Duggan shakeup placed a new layer of bureaucracy between Lawson and PBS brass, a decision that Lawson said she could not abide.
“I saw the possibility of succeeding at this job diminished by the Duggan reorganization,” Lawson said. “The choice to leave has been ours (mine and Grant’s).”
Duggan, in a statement, said Lawson “served America’s public TV stations and their millions of viewers with grace, style and real distinction.”
Lawson is a 15-year veteran of public TV. She joined PBS in 1989 after working her way up to director of the Television Program Fund at the Corp. for Public Broadcasting. At PBS, Lawson headed the National Program Service, which distributes public TV standouts such as “The MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour,” “Frontline” and “Sesame Street.”
Lawson also nurtured the development of PBS’ two most highly watched series: filmmaker Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” and “Baseball.” Lawson said she is most proud of the Burns’ documentaries, and of her involvement in launching the PBS Children’s Initiative, which helped double preschool viewership with programs such as “Barney” and “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?”
Yet Lawson has also been a target for critics from both the right and left during her tenure. Conservatives have criticized the alleged left-wing bias of PBS shows, while left-wingers complained when PBS refused to bankroll a sequel to the counterculture series “Tales of the City.”
Grant joined PBS in 1990 as veepee of the National Program Service and was promoted two years later to service veepee.
Duggan praised Grant for “considerable skills in programming as well as his great abilities in program scheduling and administration.”
PBS veepee of programming Kathy Quattrone will become acting head of the National Program Service starting March 10. PBS spokesman Harry Forbes said the “assumption is that both of these posts (Lawson’s and Grant’s) will be filled.”