Learn about the rich history of PMBA and its legacy of service to public media.
The need for an organization like PMBA became clear as soon as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) initiated Community Service Grants (CSG) to public television and radio licensees. Before CSGs, the accounting practices of individual public broadcasting licensees rarely interacted. Stations were isolated islands in the nationwide archipelago of public broadcasting.
Interaction would have been difficult, in any case. Public broadcasting grew in America by evolving four distinct types of organizations to hold noncommercial educational broadcast licenses, and operate public radio and TV stations. Business practices among those license holder categories -- community, university, state, and local authority -- have always varied dramatically.
But administration of the Community Service Grant program required at least some commonality of accounting methods. Soon after stations began to receive Community Service Grants (mid-1970s), CPB auditors started to recognize some grant recipients’ business practices as the most effective. CPB staff often directed other recipients to those stations for advice.
A group of finance professionals from those often-called licensees began meeting regularly with CPB staff to ensure the continued quality of their own practices and to make sure the advice they gave to others was correct. The group organized itself into the Public Telecommunications Financial Management Association (PTFMA), and Boris Frank of WHA/Madison, Wisconsin, emerged as the group’s convener, newsletter editor, and advocate.
By April of 1980, the group had drafted bylaws and elected its first board of directors, including representatives from the national organizations (CPB, NPR, PBS). Then, as now, the most important products of the association were person-to-person networking, training delivered via conferences and workshops, and interactive connection of members to the national organizations.
In 1982, PTFMA’s headquarters moved from the University of Wisconsin in Madison to SECA (now NETA) in Columbia, South Carolina. The boards of PTFMA and SECA, and the staff of SECA (particularly SECA’s finance director Bob Simmons) saw synergy between their organizations. PTFMA engaged SECA (in 1997, it became NETA) to provide management and headquarters services.
The character of PTFMA’s membership evolved, too. People who had begun public broadcasting careers in accounting and finance moved into general management, but maintained their PTFMA connections and membership. Human resource specialists realized that PTFMA’s professional development interest aligned with theirs, and that the association’s focus on non-commercial broadcasting made its training products uniquely valuable. Staff legal counsel and information technology professionals discovered PTFMA and joined to gain access to its special network.
The broadening membership meant that, by 1996, PTFMA’s name no longer described the association’s reach. Under the leadership of chair Gary Ferrell, then at KCET/Los Angeles, the board recommended, and the members voted, a name change to Public Broadcasting Management Association (PBMA). The ad hoc committee that developed the new name included individuals who had been on PTFMA’s first board.
In 2011, the PBMA Board of Directors announced that Coulter would provide comprehensive association management services to the organization, moving the headquarters to McLean, Virginia. But change did not end with the move.
It was time for PBMA to evolve yet again. With emerging technology and new media, public broadcasting was no longer limited to television and radio. And public media stations needed more than good management to thrive. In a strategic move to position PBMA as the “go-to” organization for public media business intelligence, training, and the collective benefit, PBMA was renamed the Public Media Business Association (PMBA). The new name was an important part of an overall rebranding that also introduced a new website, social media, innovative business-focused programs and services, and the tagline enhancing the efficiency, effectiveness, and economic of public media.
Our thanks to Paul Few, Ken Krall, and Priscilla Weck for contributing their recollections to this history of PBMA.