Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday named Courtney Pledger the new executive director for the Arkansas Educational Television Network. She replaces Allen Weatherly who died last November after leading the network since 2001.
The network, which airs PBS and locally produced programming on six broadcast stations around Arkansas, is operated by an agency of the state government.
Hutchinson said he interviewed Pledger and "was so impressed with her, her love of television, her vision, her background, her philosophy of it, if you will, but then this was a decision that the AETN commissioners made." He thanked the commissioners for their work in conducting a search. He said they followed the law and voted unanimously to recommend Pledger for the position.
Pledger has an extensive background in television and films, most recently serving as executive director of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. She has also been an executive producer for DreamWorks Animation, a producer and partner at Jigsaw Films, and was co-producer of the award-winning 1990 television film A Killing in a Small Town.
Hutchinson, a Republican, said he doesn’t foresee any changes to AETN’s operations or budget.
"Our balanced budget we’ve presented has continued funding and support for AETN. There’s not any reduction in my balanced budget and there’s no plans in that regard," Hutchinson said.
Last year state Sen. Bart Hester, a Republican from Cave Springs, was critical of state spending for public television "at a time when the free market offers such an ample array of choices in telecommunication."
AETN was created in 1966 and last year celebrated its 50th anniversary. Pledger said she would like to continue growing locally produced content.
"I believe that AETN tells the story of Arkansas in ways that no one else can. As a voice for all Arkansans, the network is poised to reach people in our state in more ways than ever before," Pledger said. That includes a growing number of digital platforms that she said expand the reach of AETN’s programming well beyond the state’s borders.
Pledger is to begin March 20 and said she is "eager to get to work, to get to know all of AETN’s many partners, potential partners, donors, all of the thousands of viewers from all across the state that know and love AETN."
Governor Hutchinson expressed his confidence in Pledger.
"I recognize her talent, her leadership, I think she’ll be a great part of the AETN team most importantly, but she will be an important part of my team."
KUAR and Arkansas Public Media are partners with AETN and our reporters often appear on network programs and political debates.