PBS director of science gets the axe

Mary Jane McKinven is one of the high profile casualties of PBS's recently announced national staff layoffs, which brought down the total number of staff by 60.
March 21, 2001

Mary Jane McKinven, director of science, natural history and explorations programming for PBS, is out of a job following the U.S. pubcaster’s decision to restructure and consolidate its staff. ‘We have unfortunately eliminated [her]position through downsizing,’ confirms Jacoba Atlas, the newly appointed Los Angeles-based co-chief program executive. A total of 60 positions (or 9% of the workforce) were cut across the company.

McKinven’s duties will be assumed by Sandy Heberer, formerly PBS’s senior director of news and information. Heberer now becomes the director of all factual genres, including history, natural history, science, nature and current affairs. Says Atlas, ‘What we’ve done is restructure more in line with the way they do it in the U.K. We have a director of genres for all our non-fiction, regardless of what the subject matter is.’

Atlas herself has taken on an expanded role, jointly overseeing the entire programming staff along with John Wilson. Atlas is responsible for factual, fiction and performance, while Wilson handles children’s, fundraising and syndicated programming.

Reflecting on the timing of the restructuring, Atlas says, ‘I think one of the reasons this happened is that when Pat Mitchell came to PBS, she kept content reporting to herself. She’s a producer and that’s what she loves. But, at this point there’s so much on her plate that having everyone in content reporting to her was just overload. So, John and I now report to her.’

Atlas confirms that independent producers still follow the same path into PBS. ‘The best way for producers to get their work to PBS’s attention is through the regional VPs. ‘

According to Atlas, no further cuts to staff or programming are planned.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.