WGBH executive leadership biographies

 

Jonathan C. Abbott
President and Chief Executive Officer

Jon Abbott is President and CEO of WGBH—public broadcasting for New England, PBS’s leading content producer, and a major supplier of programming for public radio nationwide.

Abbott is a nationally recognized public media leader who has transformed the way WGBH creates and distributes educationally rich content to millions of Americans throughout New England and across the nation. He has expanded WGBH’s media services, impact, and reach locally and nationally—on TV, radio, the Web, and mobile, in living rooms and classrooms. He championed WGBH’s early adoption of digital technologies, new content creation models, best practices, and cost efficiencies that are furthering WGBH’s capacity to produce programming and content in the public interest, supported by the public WGBH serves.  

Working closely with PBS, Abbott co-led the launch of two national digital channels: Create (showcasing lifestyle programming) and World (nonfiction documentaries celebrating diverse voices). In partnership with PBS, he led the launch of PBS LearningMedia, a free national online service pioneered by WGBH that offers classroom-ready digital resources and lesson plans tied to state and national standards; that service now is utilized by more than 1.4 million educators in 48 states.

Under Abbott’s leadership, WGBH has invested in promising R&D projects to further public media’s mission, from the development of mobile apps that deepen preschoolers’ understanding of math concepts to piloting a new forum for civic discourse on the air and in real time via social media. Abbott was instrumental in bringing public television station leaders together to create the Contributor Development Partnership, to identify and share best practices for building member support and establish the first-ever national database tracking practices and performance. More than 110 PBS member stations now participate in this initiative to strengthen public media services, improve efficiencies, and reduce costs by tapping economies of scale.

In 2012, to enhance its role in producing new content and supporting creators and producers, WGBH acquired Public Radio International (PRI), a leading content producer and distributor for public radio and new media platforms.

Closer to home, Abbott has led WGBH’s dramatic reinvestment in services to its New England region, through 11 public TV services and three public radio services; the launch of a vibrant WGBH News service; the acquisition of WCRB to preserve and deliver classical music, 24/7; and a partnership with the early childhood and K-12 education agencies of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Abbott joined WGBH as Vice President and General Manager in 1998, became Executive Vice President and COO in 2004, and was named President and CEO in October 2007. Prior to coming to WGBH, he served six years as Senior Vice President for Development and Corporate Relations at PBS and five years in senior management with San Francisco public station KQED. A longtime jazz enthusiast, he got his start in broadcasting in 1981 at Columbia University Station WKCR-FM. 

Abbott is a member of the boards of PBS, American Public Television (APT), MassChallenge, and Arts Boston and an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He holds a BA from Columbia University and an MBA from Stanford University.

Benjamin Godley
Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President

Ben Godley manages WGBH's overall operations and ensures that editorial teams and supporting departments work effectively to realize the organization's goals. Godley joined WGBH in 2008 as Executive Vice President and was named COO in 2010. He oversees WGBH’s New England-area program services (TV, radio, and Web) and the WGBH departments that manage the organization's strategy, finance, budgeting, development, administration, legal and business affairs, human resources, policy and planning, and marketing and communications, as well as WGBH's media access efforts on behalf of the 36 million Americans with hearing or vision impairments.

Godley served in senior positions with Mitt Romney's presidential campaign after several years on the executive staff of the Massachusetts governor. Prior to his work in the political arena, he co-founded and was president and CEO of the award-winning agency CGN Marketing & Creative Services. He also has worked in marketing and management roles at IBM and at Hill and Knowlton and served on a number of local non-profit boards, including Big Brother Big Sister of Massachusetts Bay and the Massachusetts Children's Trust Fund.

David Bernstein
Vice President and General Manager for WGBH Enterprises
Co-President, PBS Distribution

David Bernstein directs WGBH's business activities, which include negotiation of partnerships with commercial and foreign co-producers; publishing; and licensing. David also is Co-President of PBSd, which is a separate entity wholly owned by PBS and WGBH. PBSd distributes PBS and WGBH programs to home video, foreign, and commercial markets. Prior to joining WGBH in 1992, Bernstein held positions as a senior consultant for Devonshire Consulting; Assistant Secretary of Administration and Finance and director of the Office of Management Information Systems for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; and Associate Commissioner of the Massachusetts Welfare Department.

John Bredar
Vice President for National Programming

John Bredar is WGBH's Vice President for National Programming, overseeing WGBH's many celebrated national series for PBS and related new media, including Frontline, Nova, Masterpiece, American Experience, and public television’s most-watched program, Antiques Roadshow. He supervises such WGBH lifestyle, health, and performance programs as Simply Ming, Rough Cut - Woodworking with Tommy Mac, and The Mind of a Chef.

Bredar joined WGBH in 2013 after 26 years with National Geographic, where he was senior executive producer for the National Geographic Specials and was responsible for the development, production, and post-production of more than 150 programs, extending the reach of National Geographic Television internationally. He created the Inside series (Inside the White House, Inside the Vatican, et al.) and produced 25 documentary films on topics ranging from science and the natural world to history, drama, and political investigation. His work has earned him Emmy and History Maker’s Awards, and his co-production with WGBH’s Nova, Ape Genius, was recognized with a George Foster Peabody Award. Bredar is author of The President’s Photographer, the companion book to the National Geographic Special following President Obama’s photographer and revealing the history of Presidential photographers.

A native of Colorado, Bredar holds a BS degree from Northwestern University and an MA from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Liz Cheng
General Manager for Television

Liz Cheng is WGBH’s General Manager for Television, overseeing local channels WGBH 2, WGBX 44, ’GBH Kids, Create, and Boston Kids & Family TV as well as the national public television multicast channel World. She joined WGBH in December 2011 to serve as General Manager for the World Channel, a 24/7 service offering original content from independent filmmakers and emerging producers complemented by public television’s signature nonfiction documentary, science, and news programming. With a focus on new and diverse voices, emerging technology, and social media, World offers unique programs such as Global Voices, AfroPop, Pacific Heartbeat, and the co-produced documentary series America ReFramed and Local, USA.

Cheng came to WGBH from Hearst Television’s Boston ABC affiliate, WCVB-TV, where she served as Vice President as well as Director of Programming and Communications; in the latter capacity she also programmed Manchester, New Hampshire’s WMUR-TV. Cheng was executive in charge of production for the acclaimed newsmagazine Chronicle; for such syndicated programs as Miller’s Court and A Likely Story; and for New England Sunday, Good Day!, and other local productions. She executive-produced 10 years of Pops Goes the Fourth! andHoliday Pops for simulcast on the A&E Network and originated specials for the History Channel.

As a producer and executive producer, Cheng has received local and national recognition including a national Primetime Emmy Award nomination, two National Association of Broadcasters Awards, two National Association of Television Programming Executives honors, three Gabriel Awards, an Action for Children’s Television Award, a Parents’ Choice Award, and many New England Emmys.

Cheng graduated with honors from Brown University.

Stacey Decker
Chief Technology Officer

Stacey Decker joined WGBH in 2013, relocating from Lincoln, Nebraska, where he served as Assistant General Manager for Technology at Nebraska Educational Telecommunications, overseeing a statewide network of TV and radio transmitters and managing information technology, software and Web development, network operations and distribution, and production support. Prior to that, Stacey spent seven years at South Dakota Public Broadcasting as statewide CTO.

Decker started his career in technology as an electronics technician with the United States Coast Guard.

Jeanne M. Hopkins
Vice President, Communications and Government Relations

Jeanne Hopkins oversees institutional, community, and government relations for WGBH and is the liaison with WGBH's Community Advisory Board.

Hopkins joined WGBH in 1989 as Director of Media Relations. In 1991 she helped create WGBH's federal government relations initiatives, and later expanded local and community efforts. She was promoted to Vice President in 1994. She serves on the Boards of Brighton Main Streets, the Presentation School Foundation, and the Brighton Board of Trade.

Prior to joining WGBH, Hopkins spent 10 years in University Relations at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and was press secretary to a former US Congressman.

Susan L. Kantrowitz
Vice President and General Counsel

Sue Kantrowitz is responsible for all legal matters affecting WGBH, including all aspects of the production contracting process and the negotiation and administration of national collective bargaining agreements with actors, writers, and musicians. She also oversees the WGBH Media Archives and Library, which she founded almost 25 years ago.

Kantrowitz joined WGBH’s legal department in 1981, becoming Director of Legal Affairs in 1984. She was named the organization’s first General Counsel in 1986. Kantrowitz came to WGBH from the public relations firm Bozell & Jacobs, where she was an account executive. Prior to that, she was an associate producer at California station KOCE-TV.

Kantrowitz holds a JD from Boston College Law School and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Boston University, from which she graduated summa cum laude. She is a member of the American Bar Association, the Massachusetts Bar Association, and the Boston Bar Association.

Winifred Lenihan
Vice President for Development

A nationally respected development professional, Win Lenihan leads WGBH's major philanthropic fundraising, planned and high-level annual giving, and foundation development efforts as well as its board development activities and events management. Lenihan has played a strong hand in three WGBH capital campaigns, directing the last two, which set new marks for the organization. She began her development career in WGBH's membership office in the 1980s.

Vinay Mehra
Chief Financial Officer, Vice President for Finance and Administration

Vinay Mehra leads WGBH's financial administration and strategy, assuring that the organization's accounting, budget, and physical plant systems and operations support and enhance WGBH's educational mission. He joined WGBH in 2008 after more than 15 years in senior financial management roles as CFO and Vice President of Finance at both publicly traded and privately held companies, including a Boston-area franchise management company, the Pittsburgh-based media technology company Mediasite Inc., and the San Jose technology company Selectica. Mehra began his career at PricewaterhouseCoopers, serving clients in the media, technology, and service industries.

Russell J. Peotter
WGBH Vice President and General Manager for WGBY Springfield

Rus Peotter is responsible for the management of WGBY Springfield, the WGBH-affiliated public television station serving western Massachusetts, northern Connecticut and southern Vermont. He oversees all station functions including programming, production, development, engineering, and administration.

Peotter came to WGBY in 2001 from Maine Public Broadcasting, where he was in charge of the station's fundraising, promotion, outreach, and audience service efforts since 1992. He has served on numerous PBS national committees, helping senior PBS management develop policies and services in support of stations across the country.

Alexis Fife Rapo
Vice President for Digital Media

Alexis Fife Rapo joined WGBH in 2010 to lead digital strategy, exploring new digital formats, content experiences, and platforms for WGBH content. She leads WGBH's Digital teams, collaborating wtih WGBH's national and local television and radio teams, including the producers of Nova, Frontline, Masterpiece, American Experience, Antiques Roadshow, Curious George, and Arthur.

Rapo came to WGBH from the Disney-ABC Television Group, where she was Vice President, ABC Digital Media, and led multiplatform strategy, product, and online video and content development for ABC.com. She won an Emmy Award for Interactive Television and Programming in 2006.

Phil Redo
General Manager for Radio

Phil Redo is General Manager for 89.7 WGBH Boston Public Radio; 99.5 WCRB Classical New England; and WCAI, WGBH’s Cape and Islands NPR® station (90.1, 91.1, 94.3, 89.7 HD3). He oversees WGBH’s national radio production partnerships, including The World and The Takeaway. His responsibilities also include WGBH’s locally produced public affairs television programs (Greater Boston, et al.).
 
Redo has a 35-year career in both public and commercial radio, having run leading stations in New York, Chicago, and Boston. Prior to joining WGBH in 2009 he was Vice President and General Manager for the five-station Boston cluster owned by Greater Media. For five years he served as Vice President for Station Operations and Corporate Strategy at WNYC-AM and -FM, the largest public radio station in the United States.
 
Redo’s on-air experience includes news, talk, and music. He was named Air Personality of the Year (1978) by Billboard and top Major Market General Manager by Radio Inc. (2007, 2008, and 2009).
 
A native of New York City, Redo has a BA from Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

Brigid Sullivan
Vice President for Children's Media and Educational Programming

Brigid Sullivan joined WGBH in 1978 and was appointed Vice President in 1980. Under her leadership, WGBH has won every major honor for children's media, educational programming, and new-media content, including more than 30 Emmy Awards.
 
WGBH is the single largest source of children's programs seen nationally on PBS and the Web, and Sullivan is responsible for the creation of such highly regarded productions as Curious George (the No. 1 show on TV for preschoolers), Arthur, Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman, Martha Speaks, Between the Lions, Design Squad and Design Squad Nation, Postcards from Buster, Peep and the Big Wide World, and Zoom. She has overseen the production of the most popular telecourses of all time (French in Action, Destinos, Misunderstood Minds) and was executive in charge of Invitation to World Literature (featuring Harvard Professor David Damrosch). She served as executive producer of Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? (turning author Michael Sandel's hugely popular Harvard University course into a hugely popular series on public television and the Web) and Poetry Everywhere with Garrison Keillor (an innovative effort to bring poetry to a wider audience, online and on TV). She also initiated Teachers’ Domain, WGBH’s digital library of free media resources correlated to state and national standards, which led PBS to partner with WGBH on PBS LearningMedia, providing educators across the US with free media resources on demand. 
 
Formerly charged with overseeing WGBH's new-media and media access activities, Sullivan launched WGBH’s efforts in broadband and interactive media, including smartphone and iPad apps for Arthur, Between the Lions, Martha Speaks and Peep and the Big Wide World learning games available on iTunes and Google, as well as creative partnerships with Apple, Microsoft, and others. Sullivan led WGBH to become the largest supplier of content to pbs.org( one of the most popular dot-orgs in the world) and dramatically expanded WGBH's commitment to ensuring that the 36 million Americans with hearing or vision impairments have access to popular media on public and commercial television, on the Web, in movie theaters, and more.
 
In the two decades that Sullivan led WGBH’s strategic planning efforts, the organization realized a sixfold increase in revenues from $30M to $180M and grew from 300 employees to more than 1,000.
 
Sullivan's achievements have earned her numerous honors, including the New England Silver Circle Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and induction in the YWCA Academy of Women Achievers. She holds an MBA from Harvard University and a BA from Thomas More College of Fordham University.

Fran Sullivan
Vice President for Human Resources

Fran Sullivan has more than 20 years of executive-level human resources experience as a Senior Vice President at various divisions of Fidelity Investments, as well as experience consulting to small and mid-sized companies. She joined WGBH in 2012 as Vice President for Human Resources to lead the organization in goal setting, performance evaluation, training, career advancement, mentoring, inclusion, and other areas critical to WGBH’s continued  success.

Sullivan serves as a board and finance committee member for Girls’ LEAP, a local non-profit focused on empowering young women to value and champion their own safety and well being. She holds a Masters of Arts in Education, a Bachelor of Science in Communications, and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, all from Syracuse University.

Suzanne Zellner
Vice President, Corporate Sponsorship

Suzanne Zellner oversees WGBH's national and regional corporate development activities, supervising the staff that secures sponsors for WGBH and handles marketing, client services, and sponsor research.

Zellner joined WGBH in 2003 to direct the Sponsorship Group for Public Television (SGPTV), which secures national corporate sponsors for signature PBS programs, including WGBH's own productions. She was promoted two years later to supervise a newly consolidated department that unifies WGBH's national sales, marketing, client services, and sponsor research operations with the regional sponsorship sales team for WGBH's TV and radio broadcasts, website, and events.

Zellner came to WGBH with more than 20 years of sales, account management, and product management at Ziff Communications and CMP Media. She also has CEO and COO experience at three Internet start-up companies. She is the founding executive director of MassWIT (Women, Insights, Technology), a professional women's networking organization.

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