With a career that spans more than 40 years in the industry, William F. Baker, Ph.D., has taken a leading role in helping to shape American broadcasting in both the commercial and public sectors. As an author, lecturer and the recipient of many honors and awards, he is a sought-after expert in the field and a well-known advocate for the educational potential of television.
In February 2008, Baker became President Emeritus of WNET, parent company of public media providers THIRTEEN and WLIW21. Baker served as President and Chief Executive Officer of WNET’s predecessor (Educational Broadcasting Corporation) for 20 years. THIRTEEN is the flagship public broadcasting station, the premier national public television program producer, and the most-watched public television station in the United States. It is also the largest producer of cultural and arts programming in America. WLIW21 is the third-most-watched public television station in America, and a major producer and presenter of public television programming seen nationwide.
In addition to his role as President Emeritus, Baker is currently Executive in Residence at Columbia University School of Business, Journalist in Residence at Fordham University and the Claudio Aquaviva Chair at the Graduate School of Education.
Under Baker’s leadership, THIRTEEN created the national nightly Charlie Rose discussion program, the Peabody and Emmy Award-winning local series City Arts and City Life, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, winner of the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists, and Thirteen’s affiliate cultural cable channel MetroArts/THIRTEEN. THIRTEEN also instituted the Educational Resources Center for educational program development and multimedia learning during Baker’s tenure.
Baker is recognized as one of America’s most prolific fundraisers, having raised more than $1 billion in his career. While president of Thirteen, he helped stabilize the finances of the station by building the largest endowment in public television history and led the station’s move to its state-of-the-art digital production and broadcast facility on West 33rd Street in Manhattan in 1998.
He oversaw the station’s transition to digital transmission in 2001 and the launch of two 24-hour digital channels, THIRTEENHD and Kids THIRTEEN, in 2002. They were followed by four more digital services—WLIW21 Create, WLIW21 World, THIRTEEN On Demand and THIRTEEN PBSKids On Demand—in 2004, and V-me, the first public television service for Latino viewers in the United States, in 2007. In addition, Baker oversaw THIRTEEN’s historic merger with its sister station WLIW21, which was completed in 2003.
Prior to joining EBC, Baker served a dual role as President of Westinghouse Television, Inc. (from 1979) and Chairman of Group W Satellite Communications (from 1981). During his 10 years at Westinghouse, five cable networks were launched, including Discovery Channel and the Disney Channel. He established the successful national PM Magazine program and introduced Oprah Winfrey as a talk show host.
Baker began his broadcasting career while still a student, and has held a variety of programming and general management positions in radio and television in Cleveland, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and New York.
Drawing on his many years of professional experience in broadcasting, Baker co-authored Down the Tube: An Insider’s Account of the Failure of American Television (Basic Books, 1998) and has participated in various public forums on electronic media. He is also the co-author of Leading With Kindness: How Good People Consistently Get Superior Results (AMACOM, 2008).
Baker is the Executive Producer of The Face: Jesus in Art, a landmark documentary film that traces the image of Jesus Christ in art around the world and across two millennia. The Face premiered nationwide on public television in April 2001 and in a limited theatrical release. The film won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Camera Photography.
Baker is also the Executive Producer of Picturing Mary, the follow-up to The Face. Filmed in the widescreen HD technology, Picturing Mary surveys images of the Virgin Mary by Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Titian and other masters throughout the ages and across the world. The film premiered nationwide on public television in December 2006.
On July 4, 1992, he hosted the worldwide telecast of the Tall Ships parade, which achieved the largest audience in the Thirteen’s history.
In 2007, Baker was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) Management Hall of Fame. Also in 2007, he received the Mark Schubart Award from the Lincoln Center Institute, which recognizes individuals who most exemplify the institute’s ideal of integrating the arts with education. In 2005, he was inducted into the New York State Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame and elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. In 2004, he was inducted into Broadcasting & Cable’s Hall of Fame. He has received the Gabriel Personal Achievement Award, two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards and numerous other awards for his work as a producer, including six Emmy Awards. Baker was also honored by NATAS with the 1987 Trustees Emmy Award, which is given in recognition of outstanding contribution to the advancement of television.
His unusual range of avocations includes amateur radio, horology, astronomy, electronics, sailing, and polar exploration. In 1983, Baker carried the Explorers Club flag to the top of the world, becoming one of only a few people to have visited both the North and South Poles. He returned to the South Pole in December 1988 to tape a documentary about Antarctica, and he revisited in 1992 and 1996.
Baker is chairman of the National Park System Advisory Board. He also serves on the boards of the Public Broadcasting Service, Rodale Press, Freedom Communications, Inc., The British Academy of Film and Television Arts East Coast, and Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. He is a former president of the New York Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Baker received his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Case Western Reserve University, and is the recipient of honorary degrees from St. John’s University, College of St. Elizabeth, Long Island University, New School University, Seton Hall University and Fordham University.