WASHINGTON — The Corp. for Public Broadcasting on Friday named Martin Rubenstein, the former head of the Mutual Broadcasting System, to be its new president and chief executive officer, a post that has been vacant since Edward J. Pfister resigned last May.
"We are very pleased by our selection," said CPB board chairman Sonia Landau, adding that Rubenstein "has an outstanding background and excellent leadership skills."
The board made its long-awaited decision to offer Rubenstein the job after a meeting Thursday night. An executive recruitment firm had recommended a number of candidates to a CPB selection committee, which narrowed the list to four names. Two of the finalists dropped out, leaving the board with Rubenstein and one other. CPB kept its list secret, and top officials in public broadcasting said they had no idea who the other candidates were.
CPB is a nonprofit corporation authorized by federal law to develop non-commercial radio and television programs. CPB funds the production and acquisition of programs for public broadcasting, and also provides grants to public radio and TV stations for their operating and programming costs.
The announcement of a new president for CPB has been eagerly awaited by the public-broadcasting community and other industry observers who see the need for a new president to to help create a more orderly management at the board. In the months since Pfister's highly publicized abrupt departure, the board has been operated by a three-man management team.
Pfister quit his job during a CPB board meeting in San Francisco after the board voted to withdraw its support to send a delegation of public broadcasters to the Soviet Union. Pfister, who frequently clashed with Landau, said at the time that he could not continue working amid political interference from the board. The 10 members of the board are appointed by the White House. The board's politically conservative majority includes Landau and five other Reagan appointees.
When Pfister left CPB, his salary was $83,300. A CPB spokesman said Friday that Rubenstein's salary has not been determined.
Public-broadcasting observers said that they hoped the appointment of a new president also would help ease some tensions on the board and enable the members to focus on policy and programming issues.
While the list of candidates for the president's job was not made public, Landau called the group interviewed by the board "outstanding."
"It's a good appointment," said Douglas J. Bennet Jr., president of National Public Radio, who applauded Rubenstein's background as a corporate executive and radio broadcaster. "We look forward to working closely with him."
Rubenstein was introduced officially at the CPB board meeting on Friday, and said he was honored to have been selected.
Rubenstein was president of the Mutual radio network from November, 1979, until April, 1984. He joined the company in 1978 as executive vice president for administration. Under Rubenstein's helm, a Mutual executive recalled, the network launched its fine-arts programming, and became the first radio network to distribute its programming by satellites.
Before joining Mutual, Rubenstein had worked for ABC for 17 years, including the position of vice president and general manager of ABC News.
Since he left Mutual in 1984, Rubenstein's biography said, he has been a communications consultant in the Washington area.