Vegas PBS wins praise over Women’s Engagement Council

Vegas PBS snagged bragging rights last week when PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger said she brought her national board to Las Vegas because “I wanted the board to see what a TV station should look like.”

Channel 10 is America’s most-watched PBS station on a per capita basis, she said. There are 350 PBS affiliates, so that’s high praise indeed.

“You have a real gem here and are incredibly lucky to have (general manager) Tom Axtell leading the way. He is always looking for new ways to serve the community, and I think that this Vegas PBS Women’s Engagement Council is particularly timely and necessary,” Kerger said Wednesday at the council’s first organizational meeting.

Saturday’s column explained the council’s goals to improve our community by addressing problems facing women and girls.

Axtell explained Vegas PBS’s role is to promote efforts by nonprofits. For example, Three Square Food Bank wanted to get the word out that it provided children food during the summer. Axtell said the station provided the number to call, and 1,800 people called it, connecting with Three Square for the food. “We’re a hub. We don’t provide services. We promote services.”

As the women’s council focuses on issues, Vegas PBS will promote them.

Axtell, general manager since 1994, is proud that Vegas PBS is housed in the nation’s first LEED Gold Television facility. There’s a Virtual High School. For emergencies, Homeland Security stashed a database of building blueprints there for fire and police use.

Kerger praised the educational aspects, the online distance education and the resources for teachers offered by Vegas PBS and wanted the national PBS board to see it firsthand.

While I was fully aware of the many progressive steps taken at Vegas PBS, I assumed that held true for public television stations across the country. Apparently, I was wrong.

Kerger said the Vegas PBS Women’s Engagement Council is not a national program; it’s being formed locally, and it dovetails into her own belief that it’s timely and necessary.

“I think it’s more important than ever to expand the role of women in media, both on-screen and behind the scenes,” she said Wednesday.

Her own efforts include offering programs such as “Kind Hearted Woman,” “Makers: Women Who Make America,” and “The Revolutionary Optimists.” Removing gender bias from children’s programming is another priority for Kerger. She is proud that since PBS began in 1969, it has worked to present positive portrayals of women and minorities.

Even the hugely popular “Downton Abbey” has a feminist aspect as the women upstairs and downstairs increase their independence. In last week’s storyline, Lord Grantham knew best when it came to birthin’ babies and ended up killing his youngest daughter. (Yes, I am a devoted fan.)

Kerger offered a challenge to each of the 40 women invited to join the women’s council.

“We must be willing to raise our voices a little more, to get a little more involved, to make our views a little more known.”

When women see negative stereotypes in the media, whether on a TV show, a news report, or an ad, they need to say it’s not acceptable, Kerger said.

I’m sure she meant do more than talk back to the television set.

Historically, women’s groups such as the Mesquite Club, the Junior League, the Assistance League and the United Way Women’s Leadership Council have improved Las Vegas.

It should be interesting to see if the Vegas PBS Women’s Engagement Council achieves its goals.

If it does, I will remember covering its first meeting. If it doesn’t succeed in improving the lives of women and girls in some fashion, at least it was well-intentioned.

Well-intentioned isn’t enough, but it’s not a bad thing either.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at or call her at 702-383-0275. She also blogs at

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