Vegas PBS announced today the upcoming retirement of General Manager, Tom Axtell, after over four decades in broadcasting with the last 26 years leading the public television organization. During his tenure at the station, Vegas PBS grew financially, added an array of new services, built a new facility, and embraced the internet and other technologies to further its educational, cultural, civic engagement, and public safety missions. Axtell will continue to serve as general manager through early October. A national search for his successor has begun.
Axtell joined Vegas PBS as general manager in 1994 and led the station through the transition from a single channel, analog service to multichannel digital media organization. At the time he joined Vegas PBS, the station was broadcasting 10 to 15 hours per day on a single channel. Today, the station broadcasts award-winning content 24/7 across six wide screen channels including PBS, Vegas PBS KIDS, and Vegas PBS Create, plus Jackpot, Rewind and WORLD on Cox Cable. A 29 channel cable service for public schools, a resource library for special needs children and adults, and an online library of over 500,000 digital media videos and lesson plans have been created to serve educators. Over 300 online career certification courses are available for adults, and over 400 public building blueprints can be sent to first responders via encrypted TV signals in emergencies. In just the last year, a text message service for parents of young children and internet streaming of broadcast channels have begun. Most station programs are now available at any time as internet streams on vegaspbs.org, the PBS Video App, Vegas PBS Passport, and other digital platforms.
Under Axtell’s leadership, Vegas PBS has consistently placed in the top five most viewed public television stations across the country on an audience percentage basis. He has recruited Emmy Award-winning staff whose local documentaries and regular series like Outdoor Nevada and Nevada Week promote tourism and discuss critical political issues. Axtell has sought to engage Vegas PBS as a key communications and information partner for many Southern Nevada philanthropic, education, government, and economic development organizations through extensive community engagement events linked to television programming.
Axtell led a 10-year, $71 million capital campaign to construct the Vegas PBS Educational Technology Campus and acquire High Definition Television production and transmission equipment. The building is the first LEED Gold broadcast facility in North America, first broadcast facility to incorporate the FCC’s post 9-11 resiliency recommendations, and first educational facility to meet the EPA indoor clean air act standards for minor children. At the time it had the largest solar rooftop array in Nevada. He also built a $5 million-dollar endowment and secured recurring entrepreneurial revenue streams from spectrum leasing agreements.
Axtell was elected to serve on the national PBS board of directors for 12 years. He chaired board committees on education, finance, and strategic planning and co-chaired groundbreaking task forces or committees that led to the establishment of online education services, restructured the governance of the national PBS board of directors, and migrated primary PBS program interconnection and FEMA emergency communications from satellites to terrestrial fiber. He is a past president of the Las Vegas Rotary Club and has served on several other local nonprofit boards. He received the Pillar of Public Broadcasting Award from America’s Public Television’s Stations in 2019 for the station’s work in education, public safety, and civic leadership.
“What a joy this work has been,” said Axtell. “Through the work of the station, I have come to know the people and organizations of Southern Nevada at a deep level and experienced periods of boisterous expansion and profound economic contraction. I have been uplifted by the generosity of our many donors. Our community can be confident that this station will continue to be a beacon of education, information, and entertainment due to the depth of skills and commitment of our staff.
“Donor support is the foundation of our ability to acquire and create quality programming that educates, inspires and uplifts. I have the utmost faith in the Vegas PBS management team to use their over 200 years of broadcasting, education, technology and management experience to keep the ship on course. I will continue to actively advise in any way necessary as the station transitions to a new president and general manager. I will miss Vegas PBS and cherish my time here deeply, and I look forward to being an Industry advisor and active grandfather.”
About Vegas PBS
Vegas PBS is a member-supported public television service providing educational content for over 50 years. Vegas PBS builds community through television, education services, and unique experiences that create a sense of place, civic and social capital. For 11 consecutive years, Vegas PBS has remained among the top three most-watched PBS stations in the country. The station offers five unique secondary channels: Create, VEGAS PBS KIDS, WORLD, Rewind and Jackpot! The station collaborates with community partners to create award-winning content that examines informational, cultural, historic, and educational regional issues.
Vegas PBS provides a robust variety of education services that extend the educational experience beyond the broadcast. Resources and services include Vegas PBS’ Ready To Learn educational workshops for children and families, professional development for teachers, online learning courses and certifications for adults, multimedia educational support for educators, 25+ channels of educational and local news for in-classroom viewing, and a Special Needs Resource Library serving those with special needs throughout the state of Nevada.
Vegas PBS viewers can access their favorite shows across multiple platforms including broadcast, vegaspbs.org, the PBS Video App and the PBS KIDS Video App. For more information, visit vegaspbs.org or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.