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New WBUR General Manager Announced

Veteran television producer Charles Kravetz tapped

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Charles Kravetz helped launch New England Cable News. Photo courtesy of Charles Kravetz

Charles Kravetz, the founding news and programming director of New England Cable News, has been appointed the new general manager of WBUR, BU’s National Public Radio station. His goals are creating new programs, an enhanced digital presence, and making further cuts in those pesky fundraising appeals that interrupt your favorite shows.

Kravetz, who also created the long-running TV newsmagazine Chronicle as a producer and executive at Boston’s ABC affiliate, WCVB-TV, will take over January 1. He succeeds Paul La Camera (COM’66, MET’74), who is taking a two-year appointment as BU’s newly created administrator of public radio, where he’ll help manage both the leadership transition and public representation of the station.

A Wellesley resident, the 58-year-old Kravetz joins WBUR at a time when the station has held its listener lead against a remade public radio competitor, Brighton-based WGBH. A year ago, that station rebooted 89.7 FM as an all-news and talk format. According to the Boston Globe, WBUR ranked 11th in the Boston radio market Arbitron ratings in October, versus 24th for WGBH.

“The challenges that WBUR faces are many, like every organization in the media, but it comes to those challenges from a position of strength,” says Kravetz. Those include continuing the digitization of its work. “Our listeners are going to want access to the quality journalism we do in every platform, whether it’s an iPad, an iPhone, any written form through the Web, through Twitter.”

While the station has so far staved off WGBH’s challenge, its competition and that of sources such as satellite radio will require “a creative, energetic, and aggressive position of continuing to grow,” Kravetz says. “WGBH has a very small audience right now, so one might assume it can take risks that WBUR feels it can’t. That’s not the right position, from my perspective. We have to continue with the marketing plan that Paul has done such a great job putting in place, new programming, and strong emphasis on localism.”

Kravetz also wants to continue the station’s drive to decrease on-air fundraising. In all these areas, he says, more specifics about his plans must await his first sharing them with WBUR staff.

The veteran television news producer and executive says he finds the GM job appealing because of the journalistic respect the station commands and its strengthened financial situation. La Camera led WBUR for five years, guiding it through several crises while shaving a $17 million debt to less than $10 million and leading a record $1.27 million pledge drive this year. On the journalism side, National Public Radio syndicates four WBUR shows: On Point, Here and Now, Only a Game, and Car Talk.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be able to take over the leadership of an organization that is in such a strong position,” Kravetz says. “WBUR stands in a unique position in the Boston market of being financially sound and owned by an extraordinary academic institution that supports it and gives it the freedom to do the kind of quality journalism we all admire.”

“I think Charlie brings, first and foremost, strong knowledge and experience in the Boston news market,” says Peter Fiedler (COM’77), BU’s vice president for administrative services and WBUR’s acting general manager during 2004 and 2005. “He understands Boston, he understands the players in this city. He also brings strong thinking on new technology. He wants to help the station grow in terms of Web access, social networking, and so on.”

Calling Kravetz “one of our city’s most accomplished and highly regarded broadcast professionals,” La Camera touts his successor’s news experience and especially his tech savvy. “It is in his vision and passion for new digital technology where I am confident Charlie will make some of his most important contributions to WBUR,” La Camera says.

Kravetz demonstrated that techno-bent at New England Cable News, an upstart in 1992 when he was hired to cobble together a news operation from scratch. In five months, he oversaw the building of a newsroom, the hiring of 90 staffers, and the start of 24-hour-a-day programming. Over 16 years, he opened four New England satellite bureaus, started the country’s first streaming video news site, and secured NECN’s perch among the top-10-rated Boston cable channels. He also led the news team to Peabody, Murrow, and duPont-Columbia awards.

He was rewarded with NECN’s president and general manager job in 2008, guiding the channel through an expanding distribution. It now reaches almost four million homes, making it the largest regional cable news channel in the country.

At WCVB between 1980 and 1991, Kravetz rose to assistant news director after years of overseeing Chronicle and other news operations. Since leaving NECN last year, he has done some consulting, including for WBUR, and traveling.

Aside from college, says the University of Rochester graduate, “I have spent my entire life in the Boston area. I’m deeply parochial and devoted to this city and New England.”

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

1 Comments

One Comment on New WBUR General Manager Announced

  • Anonymous on 12.08.2010 at 9:21 am

    Zzz.

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