You are here


Learn the rich history of PMBA and its legacy of service to public media.

PMBA's Beginnings

The need for an organization like PMBA became clear as soon as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) began initiating Community Service Grants (CSG) to public television and radio licensees. Before CSGs, the accounting practices of individual public broadcasting licensees rarely interacted. Stations were isolated islands in the nationwide archipelago of public broadcasting. Interaction would have been difficult, in any case.

Public broadcasting in America evolved into four distinct types of organizations holding noncommercial educational broadcast licenses and operating public radio and TV stations. Business practices among those license holder categories—community, university, state, and local authority—have always varied dramatically.

But administrating the CSG program required at least some commonality of accounting methods. Soon after stations began to receive CSGs into the mid-1970s, CPB auditors started to recognize some grant recipients’ business practices as the most effective. CPB staff often directed other recipients to those stations for advice.

A group of finance professionals from those often-called licensees began meeting regularly with CPB staff to ensure the continued quality of their own practices and to make sure the advice they gave to others was correct. The group organized itself into the Public Telecommunications Financial Management Association (PTFMA), and Boris Frank of WHA/Madison, Wisconsin, emerged as the group’s convener, newsletter editor, and advocate.

By April 1980, the group had drafted bylaws and elected its first board of directors, including representatives from the national organizations (CPB, NPR, PBS). Then, as now, the most important products of the association were person-to-person networking, training delivered via conferences and workshops, and interactive connection of members to the national organizations.

Back to top

PMBA's History: 1982–2011

In 1982, PTFMA’s headquarters moved from the University of Wisconsin in Madison to SECA (now NETA) in Columbia, South Carolina. The boards of PTFMA and SECA and the staff of SECA (particularly SECA’s finance director, Bob Simmons) saw synergy between their organizations. PTFMA engaged SECA (NETA as of 1997) to provide management and headquarters services.

The character of PTFMA’s membership evolved, too. People who had begun public broadcasting careers in accounting and finance moved into general management but maintained their PTFMA connections and membership. Human resource specialists realized that PTFMA’s professional development interest aligned with theirs, and that the association’s focus on noncommercial broadcasting made its training products uniquely valuable. Legal counsel staff and information technology professionals discovered PTFMA and joined to gain access to its special network.

The broadening membership meant that, by 1996, PTFMA’s name no longer described the association’s reach. Under the leadership of chair Gary Ferrell, then at KCET/Los Angeles, the board recommended, and the members voted on, a name change to Public Broadcasting Management Association (PBMA). The ad hoc committee that developed the new name included individuals who had been on PTFMA’s first board.

Back to top

A Sharpened Focus: 2011–Present

In 2011, the PBMA board of directors announced that Coulter would provide comprehensive association management services to the organization, moving the headquarters to McLean, Virginia. But change did not end with the move.

It was time for PBMA to evolve yet again. With emerging technology and new media, public broadcasting was no longer limited to television and radio, and public media stations needed more than good management to thrive. In a strategic move to position PBMA as the “go-to” organization for public media business intelligence, training, and the collective benefit, PBMA was renamed the Public Media Business Association (PMBA). The new name was an important part of an overall rebranding that also introduced a new website, social media, innovative business-focused programs and services, and the tagline enhancing the efficiency, effectiveness, and economics of public media.

In 2018, PMBA announced in a press release that Management Solutions Plus (MSP) would begin managing PMBA. MSP is a full-service assoication management company located in Rockville, Maryland.

Our thanks to Paul Few, Ken Krall, and Priscilla Weck for contributing their recollections to this history of PMBA.

Back to top