AR Briefly

Legislative committee OKs salary bump for Arkansas PBS chief

By: - August 24, 2022 8:00 pm

The personnel committee of the Arkansas Legislative Council unanimously approved a salary increase to $180,000 for Courtney Pledger, executive director and CEO of Arkansas PBS.

That amounts to a $27,418 raise over her current salary of $152,582.

John Brown, chairman of the Arkansas PBS Commission, told committee members Wednesday that the network’s programming quality had improved dramatically in the five years Pledger has been employed.

The raise for Pledger will make her salary more competitive with other states in the region, he said.

“We need to preserve and protect our executive director,” Brown said.

Courtney Pledger
(Source: Arkansas PBS)

The committee vote came about a month after legislators attended a meeting at the network’s headquarters at which Arkansas PBS officials stressed its importance to the state and delivered a presentation showing how it serves Arkansans.

Some legislators earlier this year balked at approving the network’s full $5.9 million budget because of concerns about some of its programming and questioned the need for such a significant raise for Pledger. At the time, Pledger was under consideration for a similar executive position with Louisiana Public Broadcasting; she later removed herself from consideration for that post.

In support of the salary increase, Brown cited a study by the National Educational Television Association that shows the median salary of public television executive directors with similar numbers of employees and annual budgets is $178,000 a year and the average salary $185,000.

“She’s one of the lowest paid directors in the region,” Marty Ryall, Arkansas PBS director of external relations told legislators. “Other people have come looking for her.”

Brown noted that the head of Georgia’s public TV network is paid $247,000 and Kentucky’s $242,000. Both of those networks are also supported by nonprofit foundations. Louisiana pays its public TV executive $240,000 and Mississippi $180,000, he said.

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Sonny Albarado
Sonny Albarado

In his 50-year career, Sonny Albarado has been an investigations editor, a business editor, a city editor, an environmental reporter and a government reporter at newspapers in Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana. Most recently, he retired from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette after serving as projects editor for 12 ½ years. He got his start in journalism as editor of the Nicholls Worth, the student newspaper at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1973. Nicholls awarded him an honorary Doctor of Letters in 2014.