Philip Smith remembers the day his shift out of commercial television began. He was working for a network affiliate in Birmingham, Ala., and his 6-year-old son inquired, “Dad, how come we never watch the TV station you work at?”
Smith, who last week was named new general manager at Redding-based public television station KIXE, was stumped.
“It was good question,” Smith said, “At that point, I knew I wanted to work at a place my kids could watch and be proud of.”
Not long after that, he began a job at Austin, Texas-based public television station KLRU-TV, home of the popular concert program “Austin City Limits.” Smith was a senior vice president of engineering and production. He begins his new position at KIXE on July 1.
Taking the job in public television some four years ago (he’s worked in broadcast TV since 1984) reinvigorated his career.
“I loved broadcasting again because I love public television,” Smith said by phone from Austin. “Part of that is because I enjoy the quality of the programs.”
Public television isn’t tied to making decisions based on the profitability of a show, he added. That allows it to focus on captivating programming regardless of how it impacts the Nielsen’s ratings.
Smith, 48, was selected from a field of 36 candidates who were identified in a national search that began in November, according to Jack Nehr, chair of KIXE’s board of directors.
He leaves a position where he oversaw the production of “Austin City Limits” in arguably the most musically hip city in America. But Smith said he’s actually looking forward to a little slower pace for his family, which includes his wife and three sons.
“(Redding) is beautiful and it’s more the size of city we want to live in,” he said. “We love the mountains and lakes and the sense of community there.”
One of the priorities Smith said he’ll bring to KIXE is engaging with all communities around the north state. Each county (KIXE serves eight) has unique aspects that can be showcased in local productions, he said. The station should highlight the interests of the people who live throughout its broadcast area.
Smith is also well aware of the changing landscape of technology and how it affects the medium of television.
“The Internet is becoming television and television is becoming the Internet,” Smith said. “Television, for so many years, focused on delivery. Now, it’s more about content. There are so many ways to deliver it — cable, satellite, Internet — but at end of day, it doesn’t matter how you deliver it, what matters most is the content. Basically, KIXE has to be more than a TV station. It’s a media outlet.”
Though he doesn’t have any immediate plans to try a version of “Austin City Limits” in the north state, Smith said the arts are a perfect priority for public TV.
“I know there’s lots of arts and culture and music in the area,” he said. “If we can raise membership numbers and get added support for the station, one of the missions will be to focus attention on those artists. If we can come up with the support necessary, we’ll be showcasing those talents. The good news is the technology required to do that is dramatically less than it was 10 years ago.”
Jim Dyar is a news, arts and entertainment journalist for A News Cafe and the former arts and entertainment editor for the Record Searchlight’s D.A.T.E. section. Jim is also a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.