PBS Executive Peter Downey, Brilliant Public Television Pioneer

Posted by PBS Publicity on

ALEXANDRIA, VA, March 28, 2000 -- M. Peter Downey, senior vice president of program business affairs at the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and a 37-year veteran of public broadcasting, died of a heart ailment on March 26. He was 57. Mr. Downey, a resident of northern Virginia, is survived by two daughters, Sarah and Caitlin, and his brother, Mortimer, and family of Vienna, VA.

"Peter was a beloved figure in public television," said Pat Mitchell, PBS president and CEO. "He was a tremendously talented and witty man who was devoted to PBS, to its stations and to our collective mission. We will miss his wisdom, insight, commitment and good humor. Most of all, we will miss a true friend. We extend our deepest sympathy to his family."

Mr. Downey began his long and distinguished his career in public broadcasting as a volunteer at WGBH/Boston in 1963. He joined PBS in 1977 as director of operations following 13 years in production-related positions at WGBH, including operations manager for its radio station and two television stations. While at WGBH, he also played a major role in the design, funding and construction of WGBY/Springfield, MA.

As PBS director of operations, Mr. Downey supervised the transition from terrestrial to satellite program distribution. In 1978, he was named senior vice president for corporate affairs and administration, a post in which he developed public and system policy initiatives for PBS and served as management liaison with the PBS Board of Directors.

Over the years he came to oversee numerous PBS departments, including, at various times, development, program scheduling, research, advertising, video promotion, public information and computer services. Mr. Downey was named senior vice president of program business affairs in the mid-1980s, managing a portfolio that included all contracting with program producers, underwriting guidelines, program data and analysis, and licensing and distribution.

PBS, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, is a private, nonprofit media enterprise owned and operated by the nation's 346 public television stations. A trusted community resource, PBS uses the power of noncommercial television, the Internet and other media to enrich the lives of all Americans through quality programs and education services that inform, inspire and delight. Available to 99 percent of American homes with televisions and to an increasing number of digital multimedia households, PBS serves nearly 100 million people each week. More information about PBS is available at pbs.org.


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Dara Goldberg