Executive Director Courtney Pledger honors the rich heritage of AETN as the first educational television station in Arkansas and celebrates opportunities to expand programming that enriches the lives of all Arkansans.
By Jillian McGehee | Photography by Karen Segrave | Hair by Rebekah Garner with Red Beauty Lounge | Makeup by Jessica Hester with Red Beauty Lounge | Shot on location at AETN
Arkansas Educational Television Network’s new executive director comes full circle as she returns to public television. Courtney Pledger began her career in television as an intern with a public television station. She’s worked in the film and television industry – nationally and internationally – for more than 30 years, and admits she has always been drawn to public media. As a result, she recognizes the transformative power of local and national public programming and the important role it plays in our collective knowledge.
A state network of the Public Broadcast Service member television stations, AETN began service in 1966 as the first educational television station in Arkansas and celebrates more than 50 years of providing Arkansans content that informs and inspires. It continues to deliver local, award winning productions as well as classic PBS programs that showcase the wonders of The Natural State and the world with viewers.
“I believe now more than ever that communities have an urgent need for AETN as a public forum for the open exchange of thoughts and ideas, free of commercial concerns,” Courtney says. “Through public media, students and adults are inspired to keep curiosity alive, to become lifelong learners. AETN tells vital stories and its services are irreplaceable.”
Courtney says she looks forward to increasing local productions throughout the state – helping Arkansans discover new ways to become more enamored with the state through programming that’s available on broadcast and streaming platforms. “AETN, with its unique Arkansas content and compelling PBS fare, is now truly available anytime, anywhere,” she says. “I cannot wait to travel our state, visit with our viewers, and have involvement in all of the ways AETN serves Arkansans beyond broadcasting.”
Courtney is excited to continue ArkansasIDEAS, a partnership with the Arkansas Department of Education, which connects more than 36,000 educators with thousands of hours of state-required professional development courses and educational opportunities. “We are consistently raising the bar on education for every single child in our state.” A portion of AETN’s staff is comprised of teachers, she notes. They are instrumental in the success of the network, providing invaluable classroom and curriculum insight. “We don’t think of ourselves as just television. We consider ourselves public service media, heavy on the public and the service. We put a lot of research and effort behind our content choices.”
Support for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting is essential for stations like AETN. “That familiar AETN/PBS acknowledgement, ‘Made possible by viewers like you’ is there for a reason,” says Courtney. “It’s to thank the many contributors and sustainers of AETN who make what we do possible.” The AETN Foundation generates essential financial support for the station through individual contributions and membership opportunities.
If not for public media, authentic stories of Arkansas communities and the genuine stories of life in America would be overlooked, Courtney says. “Families, especially those living in rural areas, might never have their eyes and hearts opened to those once-in-a-lifetime performances of music and dance. Public media offers balanced news, something that is increasingly difficult to find, and provides forums on the things that matter most to our citizens. What on earth would replace public television’s wonderful dramas, untouched by commercial concerns? Public television reaches out into our nation’s underserved populations and changes lives.”
as a young adult: Masterpiece, Great Performances and Washington Week
as a mom: Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood
local favorites: Champion Trees and Dream Land: Little Rock’s West 9th Street