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PBS president Paula Kerger was at the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday night, and she was a little intimidated.
"I have never spoken in front of 21,000 people before," Kerger said with a laugh. "It's overwhelming."
She delivered the introduction for this year's Mormon Tabernacle Choir special, which is being taped for telecast a year from now. PBS estimates last year's special, which featured musical guest David Archuleta, will be seen by 4 million viewers this month, making it public television's most-watched holiday show.
Executives from KUED-Channel 7, which produces the show, and KBYU-Channel 11 were on hand Thursday for Kerger's visit. And she had nothing but praise for the way the two stations share the Salt Lake television market.
"There are other markets with multiple stations," Kerger said. "But I think it works when the stations really have attempted to distinguish themselves from each other. What's happened here is that both stations have carved out very separate identities.
"KBYU has its own work that's connected to the university, as well as some public broadcasting. And KUED's work, particularly some of the work they're doing in the schools, is much more community based."
Those 2009 headlines that KBYU might lose its PBS membership are old news. The station, along with several others, was grandfathered in when public broadcasting began to enforce a 1985 policy that stations must be noncommercial, nonpartisan and nonsectarian. "That's behind us," Kerger said.
She was, after all, in Utah to celebrate the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's performance, an annual tradition that coincidentally fits right in with PBS' increased emphasis on arts programming.
"There is so much great music and theater and performance that's happening around the country," Kerger said. "Being able to tap into that is something that I'm enthusiastic about. When one thinks of Salt Lake, one of the cultural resources one thinks about is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. So for this to be part of my tour this year just seems perfect."