Cities Public Television, James Pagliarini ’75 has formed
partnerships with nonprofits, often for niche markets. (Courtesy
twin cities public television)
Transforming public broadcasting James Pagliarini ’75 aims to make public television more
Little did James Pagliarini ’75 know, as a junior studying
biology at Princeton, that a paper on Fred Rogers for a psychology
class would radically change his career path.
Researching that paper led Pagliarini into a career in public
television, where he’s now heading a national task force aimed
at transforming the future of public broadcasting. In a media world
with a growing number of opportunities to transmit and receive content,
Pagliarini, the president of Twin Cities Public Television (TPT),
is finding new ways to do business while preserving the role and
meaning of public television, so clear in Mr. Rogers’ work.
“We envision people being able to access the best of public
television, anytime, anywhere, anyplace,” Pagliarini says.
“From downloading segments from Sesame Street to multicasting
programs directly to people’s computers, the viewer wants
more choices.” Already, children’s programming is offered
on demand through many cable systems. Science shows for kids are
available through podcasts; shows can be downloaded for free through
programs such as Google Video.
To ensure the future of public television, Pagliarini has started
an innovative project; forming partnerships with nonprofits to produce
educational programming, often for niche markets. Stations around
the United States are pursuing other types of affiliations, with
universities or state governments. Flip on the Minnesota Channel,
one of TPT’s digital stations that features exclusively local
and regional programming, and you might see a documentary like The
Changing Face of Hunger, co-produced by TPT and Second Harvest Heartland,
a food bank in St. Paul.
Pagliarini likes to joke that he found his own niche when he decided
to abandon plans to become a doctor after injuring a hamster in
a biology lab. At 27, he helped create a public television station
in Reno, Nev. While Pagliarini is changing the way public television
runs, its award-winning national content will remain. “I hope
there will always be a show like Mr. Rogers,” he says.
By Sheila Mulrooney Eldred
Sheila Mulrooney Eldred is a freelance writer in Minneapolis,