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Voices Of The Arts: WYES President Allan Pizzato

Voices of the Arts, a series presented by NolaVie and WWNO — New Orleans Public Radio, explores the thoughts and visions of eight new arts leaders in New Orleans.

Through conversations we try to understand how they will engage with the arts and the artists in this already vibrant cultural community, about how they view us, what their goals are for their organizations, and what big plans are on their horizons.

Today meet Allan Pizzato, the newly appointed President and General Manager of WYES-TV, public television in New Orleans. Allan comes to New Orleans from Birmingham, where he ran the Alabama Public Television Network and, prior to that, worked at the public television station in Pensacola. With more than 38 years of experience in the world of public television, Allan is no stranger to New Orleans, having visited many times over the years. But now that he is a resident and an arts leader, his impression is very different from that of the occasional tourist.

Here's what Allan Pizzato has to say ...

On New Orleans cultural life: My impression was party and food. Having moved here, it’s not that those weren’t accurate, but there is so much more to this town. This town is so rich in culture and tradition. The people are so genuine. And even though there’s this relaxed atmosphere, there’s a really go-to-it, get-things-done, move-on (feeling).

On goals for WYES-TV: My objective is to increase the amount of production. When I came to WYES, I looked at what was done and what were their greatest assets; there’s no question that it’s production. Being a television station and being a broadcaster is changing dramatically in the world we live in with new technologies. We shouldn’t be so much worried about the media we’re disseminating on, we need to worry more about the information.

I’m also interested in WYES as an educational institution. I think we should look at how we can partner with local institutions to create content that we do just for the schools; create what I call electronic field trips that are done online, that are interactive, that have materials for teachers.

On how to handle financial challenges: We just went through a rough period. I knew it would be rough because I needed to make a change in something that was rather like an institution in New Orleans and it was the WYES Auction. Auctions back 25 or 30 years ago were probably the largest revenue resource stream for WYES, for stations all across the country. Over the years that has changed dramatically. I think auctions started going down as a revenue source when the QVC Home Shopping Network came online on television. Viewership is definitely down during the auction period and the revenue is just not there to justify the time we did it on air. Sometimes you have to make decisions that are not popular and those are the hardest to do. The key is figuring out new revenue streams. Our base is in production.

On big plans for the future: Pie in the sky right now and this may be out there, but we have already announced we want to be the media source for the New Orleans Tricentennial in 2018. We will produce a 90-minute documentary and scores of what we call Tricentennial minutes. But, more than that, the stories that we’ll be able to tell and with the fabulous abilities of the internet to store in the cloud, people will just be able to look up and pull them down through their different apparatus, whether it’s tablets or computers or smart phones. We will be able to disseminate the stories of New Orleans, and that’s what gets me the most excited.

WWNO has lost a dear member of its community in Sharon Litwin, co-founder and president of NolaVie. She passed away Friday, June 24, 2016. Read a tribute to Sharon on

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