Beth Courtney

On Thursday, October 14, Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB) President & CEO Beth Courtney, the longtime leader of the state’s public television network who became one of the first women to achieve national leadership in broadcasting and whose LPB tenure spanned more than four decades under seven governors, announced that she will retire at the end of January.

Her retirement comes after more than 45 years of distinguished service in public broadcasting. Courtney thanked the Board of Directors of the Louisiana Educational Television Authority (LETA) for granting her the opportunity and honor to serve the people of Louisiana for over four decades.

“LPB has grown from a single station in Baton Rouge to a statewide network of seven broadcast stations and affiliates. Over the past half-century, we have accomplished so much. LPB has become a nationally-recognized public broadcasting organization,” said Courtney. “The thing that I am most proud of is the great team we have assembled. Superbly talented men and women, who work each day to keep pushing the envelope, to keep LPB moving forward into the future. Because of them, I have enjoyed a great and rewarding career at LPB.”

Courtney, a Shreveport native who moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU where she later received her Master’s in History, spearheaded the building of one of the most recognizable and worthwhile institutions in Louisiana taking LPB from a single TV station in Baton Rouge to a sprawling statewide network of seven stations committed to educational, cultural and historical television programming, website development and digital streaming.

Courtney was awarded Broadcaster of the Year in 2020 by the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters. She created and hosted the longest-running weekly news and public affairs TV show Louisiana: the State We’re In, which she launched not long after taking the position of Executive Producer at the fledgling PBS station in 1976.

Courtney has led numerous national organizations relating to educational television serving as Chairman of the Board of American Public Television Stations (APTS) in the early 1980s, later becoming the first woman Vice Chair of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) Board of Directors in the late 1980s. In 2003, President George W. Bush appointed Courtney to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the national board that oversees the federal funds for public radio and television of which she served as Vice Chair. Courtney was Chair of the Board of Organization of State Broadcasting Executives (OSBE) and the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA).

As an advocate for public broadcasting, Courtney was selected to testify before Congress on numerous occasions, including the House Appropriations and Commerce committees. She appeared on William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line” on PBS, CBS’ “Sunday Morning,” and CNN’s “Crossfire” and the “Freedom Forum.”

Earlier this year, Courtney received the Robert B. Hamm Award, the highest honor the Council for A Better Louisiana bestows upon a Louisiana resident recognizing her as the first woman to achieve national leadership in broadcasting. In 2016, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities honored Courtney with its Lifetime Achievement Award. Governor John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards presented her with the 2020 Alumni Achievement Award from the National Mortar Board National College Senior Honor Society.

Courtney began her broadcasting career in 1972, the same year Edwin Edwards was elected Louisiana Governor. She started as a radio reporter covering Louisiana politics at the state capitol for Shreveport radio station KWKH and later Baton Rouge radio station WJBO.

Courtney moved to LPB in 1976 as Executive Producer and catapulted to the leadership reigns in 1985 as President and CEO, becoming one of the first women in the U.S. to lead a statewide Public Broadcasting network. During her 45-year career at the state’s public television network, she combined her passion for politics and history with her masterful documentarian talents to produce scores of award-winning TV documentaries including Sunshine by the Stars: Celebrating Louisiana Music, Louisiana: A History, Uncle Earl, Atchafalaya Houseboat, Katrina’s Smallest Victims, Cradle of the Stars -The Story of Louisiana Hayride, Seize & Secure: The Battle for La Fière, and In the Blind among many others.

Courtney was named “Communicator of the Year” by the Public Relations Association of Louisiana in 1984, elected “Broadcaster of the Year” by American Women in Radio and Television in 1988, and recognized as “Women of Achievement” by the YMCA in 1991. Courtney was inducted into the Louisiana Center for Women in Government Hall of Fame in 1999.

Under Courtney’s leadership at LPB, the state’s public television network won numerous local, regional and national awards, many of them focused on Louisiana’s unique culture, colorful history, its threatened coast and its extraordinary political landscape.

During Courtney’s tenure at LPB, the network became a leader in producing top-notch educational programming, engaging school curricula, using state-of-the-art digital technology and promoting civil discourse among hundreds of thousands of Louisiana constituents.

Courtney has been a fixture in Louisiana’s cultural, community and business circles, including the Baton Rouge Rotary, the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, (PAR), Council for A Better Louisiana (CABL), Junior League Advisory Board, Leadership Louisiana, State Technology Advisory Committee, Women’s Network and WLAE-TV New Orleans, where she served as vice chairman. She was also a member and past president of the Baton Rouge Press Club.

In transition, current Deputy Director Clarence “C.C” Copeland will serve as LPB Acting Director. “During the past year and a half, C.C has proven his ability to run this organization, as he has taken on more and more duties and responsibilities, guiding us through several hurricanes, the pandemic and much more,” Courtney said. “C.C stands ready, willing and able to lead LPB.”

“Beth has been a tremendous mentor to all of us at LPB. We look forward to honoring her great service to the state by continuing to tell Louisiana’s story, deliver quality programming, and provide educational content that has been central to our mission,” said LPB Acting Director C.C Copeland.

The Board of Directors of LETA, in appreciation and gratitude for Courtney’s decades of leadership, commitment to education, and dedication to the culture of Louisiana, announced that the auditorium at Louisiana Public Broadcasting, is being named the Elizabeth “Beth” Hardy Courtney Auditorium. A dedication plaque will be placed at the entrance to the auditorium describing Courtney’s importance to Louisiana Public Broadcasting, our state and the nation.

Courtney plans to stay actively involved in LPB vowing to remain the network’s strongest supporter and now chief volunteer.

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