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Beth Courtney has been president and CEO of Louisiana Public Broadcasting since 1984.

Louisiana Public Broadcasting CEO Beth Courtney has announced plans to retire at the end of January.

Current Deputy Director Clarence “C.C” Copeland will serve as LPB's acting director during the transition. 

Courtney, 76, said Thursday that she intends to leave the statewide network's top post after more than 45 years in public broadcasting. Among her many accomplishments and honors, she became the first woman vice chair of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) Board of Directors in the late 1980s, according to a Friday news release.

“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,” Courtney said. “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 thanked the Board of Directors of the Louisiana Educational Television Authority (LETA) for "the opportunity and honor to serve the people of Louisiana for over four decades."

Meanwhile, the LETA board announced that the auditorium at LPB Studios in Baton Rouge 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," the release also said.

Courtney, a Shreveport native, moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU, where she later received her master’s in history. 

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.

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She moved to LPB in 1976 as executive producer, soon after that creating and hosting the long-running weekly news and public affairs TV show, "Louisiana: the State We’re In." 

Courtney advanced to LPB's president and CEO post in 1984, becoming one of the first women in the U.S. to lead a statewide public broadcasting network. 

Courtney has led numerous national organizations relating to educational television, serving as chairman of the Board of American Public Television Stations in the early 1980s.

In 2003, President George W. Bush appointed her 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. She also was chair of the board of organization of State Broadcasting Executives and the National Educational Telecommunications Association.

Courtney advocated for public broadcasting in Congress on numerous occasions, including testifying before 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.”

With her passion for history and politics, Courtney also produced many award-winning LPB documentaries, among them "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."

“Beth has been a tremendous mentor to all of us at LPB," Copeland said. "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.” 

Courtney said she'll stay actively involved in LPB as a volunteer.


Email Judy Bergeron at jbergeron@theadvocate.com.