Jon Abbott is President and CEO of WGBH—public broadcasting for New England, PBS’s leading content producer, and a major supplier of programming for public radio nationwide.
Abbott is a nationally recognized public media leader who has transformed the way WGBH creates and distributes educationally rich content to millions of Americans throughout New England and across the nation. He has expanded WGBH’s media services, impact, and reach locally and nationally—on TV, radio, the Web, and mobile, in living rooms and classrooms. He championed WGBH’s early adoption of digital technologies, new content creation models, best practices, and cost efficiencies that are furthering WGBH’s capacity to produce programming and content in the public interest, supported by the public WGBH serves.
Working closely with Thirteen/WNET and American Public Television, Abbott co-led the launch of two national digital channels: Create (showcasing lifestyle programming) and World (nonfiction documentaries celebrating diverse voices). In partnership with PBS, he led the launch of PBS LearningMedia, a free national online service pioneered by WGBH that offers classroom-ready digital resources and lesson plans tied to state and national standards; that service now is utilized by more than 1.6 million educators in 50 states. In 2012, to enhance its role in producing new content and supporting creators and producers, WGBH acquired Public Radio International (PRI), a leading content producer and distributor for public radio and new media platforms.
Under Abbott’s leadership, WGBH has invested in promising R&D projects to further public media’s mission, from the development of mobile apps that deepen preschoolers’ understanding of math concepts to piloting a new forum for civic discourse on the air and in real time via social media. Abbott was instrumental in bringing public television station leaders together to create the Contributor Development Partnership, to identify and share best practices for building member support and establish the first-ever national database tracking practices and performance. More than 160 public TV and radio stations now participate in this initiative to strengthen public media services, improve efficiencies, and reduce costs by tapping economies of scale.
Abbott has led WGBH’s dramatic reinvestment in services to its New England region, through 10 public TV services and three public radio services; the launch of a vibrant WGBH News service; the acquisition of 99.5 WCRB to preserve and deliver classical music, 24/7; and a partnership with the early childhood and K-12 education agencies of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Abbott joined WGBH as Vice President and General Manager in 1998, became Executive Vice President and COO in 2004, and was named President and CEO in October 2007. Prior to coming to WGBH, he served six years as Senior Vice President for Development and Corporate Relations at PBS and five years in senior management with San Francisco public station KQED. A longtime jazz enthusiast, he got his start in broadcasting in 1981 at Columbia University Station WKCR-FM.
Abbott is a member of the boards of PBS, PRI (Public Radio International), Natonal Public Media, American Documentary/POV, the Public Television Major Market Group, MassChallenge, and Project Healthy Children and an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He holds a BA from Columbia University and an MBA from Stanford University.