Sidman resigns as APTS president
Larry Sidman, president of the Association of Public Television Stations for the past year, has resigned, effective April 1. Sidman told Current he is leaving for “personal and professional reasons very important to me, and time-sensitive.”
Sources with knowledge of the situation said the board voted in a conference call this month to ask Sidman for his resignation, exercising an option in his contract.
Sidman’s first-year performance review cited problems in relationships with APTS employees and with other national pubcasting leaders, according to sources who were not authorized to comment and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
APTS Board Chair Rod Bates denied those reports. “It was Larry’s decision,” Bates said. “He wasn’t forced to do this.”
The board vote was not unanimous, said sources who declined to reveal the totals. One insider termed the decision “wrenching,” adding that “there’s great affection for Larry” among public TV leaders.
APTS hired Sidman in February 2009 after a national search that lasted nearly 10 months.
Sidman’s evaluation, conducted by the consulting firm Quatt Associates Inc., involved interviews with contacts on the Hill, APTS Board members and staffers, and the heads of PBS, CPB and NPR— the rest of the so-called “G4.” Sources said Quatt found that Sidman scored “very high” in his lobbying and board work but received low ratings in his dealings with G4 leaders and APTS employees.
Insiders say it’s a demanding job to manage all of APTS’ many internal and external relationships. One said that APTS’ work, particularly with the G4, requires a lot of consensus-building collaboration, and teamwork.
“From the day I assumed the position,” Sidman told Current, “I pledged we would work together to articulate one coherent message. We had precedent-setting joint meetings, we went together to Capitol Hill, we met together with high-ranking administration officials and key chairmen.”
Before taking the top APTS job, Sidman was a communications attorney — a partner and chair of government affairs at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, and before that co-chair of telecommunications law at Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand, also based in Washington. In the 1980s he was chief counsel and staff director of the House Commerce Committee’s telecom subcommittee.
APTS accomplishments during Sidman’s tenure were limited by the recession and tight budgets. The association helped secure $25 million for “fiscal stabilization” grants to public TV and radio stations, an achievement that one insider called “extraordinary.” The appropriation was far less than CPB’s initial request of $307 million, however.
The association also negotiated voluntary agreements with cable, Verizon and DirecTV to carry pubTV stations’ local digital signals, but has yet to secure a comparable deal with Dish network. Dish and APTS have negotiated since 2006.
Sidman told Current he is particularly proud of his work to bring aboard almost all California public TV stations as APTS members and bolster relations with the state’s 55 members of Congress. “It was a very significant augmentation and enhancement” to the organization’s work, Sidman said.
Al Jerome, president of KCET in Los Angeles, said Sidman “did a great job of not only negotiating with stations, but also with the APTS Board — he made it happen.” By negotiating a package deal for the California stations, APTS approximately doubled its membership from the state.
“Larry’s departure is a big loss to us in a much broader context,” Jerome added. “He’s a very wise voice inside the G4. He’s an excellent strategist. I’m very unhappy, very disappointed.”
Bates said he will soon appoint an ad hoc committee to name an interim successor. An APTS statement said Sidman will assist the organization during the upcoming transition period and be available for consulting services.
Web page posted March 14, 2010
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