Profiles in Public Disservice: The Georgia Public Telecommunications Commission

by Brian Bannon

Georgia Public Broadcasting has a main Facebook page they update regularly. It does not allow reviews. There is a second page for GPB as an Organization. It is overflowing with reviews, most 1 star and very negative. Here are excerpts from a few:

“What a terrible, corrupt organization this is. Utterly dismissive of the entire spirit of public service. Willing to take $14M/year from Georgia taxpayers in order to steal WRAS from students and try to compete with WABE, which gets no tax subsidies and relies on donors.”

“Perhaps the most corrupt institution in the State, and that’s saying something. They are filled with Perdue cronies who want to steal the Georgia State student station which just got a new transmitter at $750,000 of student money.”

“I will never listen to or support GPB. What you did to WRAS was low, cowardly, and harmful to the community. Atlantans loved WRAS and cherished it as a purveyor of the arts. To make an under-the table-deal with the university (who are also to blame) and use our own tax dollars to destroy something our community loves is straight up wrong and undermines the purpose of public broadcasting .”

“Fires people for selling t shirts, hijacks 88.5, complicit in shady politics. Get out of Atlanta, now please. You are not needed here.”

“I understand why you sought WRAS’s airwaves. I don’t understand why you can’t be bothered to give meaningful airtime and assets to students in the process. In a negotiation between a Public Broadcaster and a school, at least one side should be genuinely thinking about the greater good for students and community. Neither party did so. Shame on you.”

GPB also has about 30 Yelp Reviews. 27 are 1 star and very negative:


Stealing radio airwaves from students! This is not the kind of behavior contributors  want to support.”

“I can’t believe they’re wasting taxpayer dollars to cannibalize WABE and kill WRAS. Nobody wants them in Atlanta and they should know that by now.”

“An NPR affiliate that seems to think its a commercial station.  I recommend never volunteering or donating to GPB.  It’s money down the drain for an organization thats already wasting our tax dollars.”

GPB did receive a positive 4 out of 5 stars as a place to work on its most recent review, but with this listed as a con:

“You have to know someone in state government to move up the food chain. If you don’t, you should not expect move to a higher position.”

So, its reputation is that of a corrupt organization, wasteful of taxpayer dollars and at odds with the will of the public it’s supposed to serve. Sounds pretty bad. But as a state agency, isn’t it supposed to have a governing body giving it oversight? A group of respected citizens ready to reign in or hold accountable bad leadership?

The Georgia Public Telecommunications Commission is an eight-member body appointed by the Governor. Surely they must be actively working to right this wayward ship and restore the public’s confidence?

The Commission meets four times a year. The Jan. 2015 meeting was contentious. WRAS student and alumni speakers called for GPB’s President Teya Ryan to be dismissed. They gave powerful reasons for doing so including using her personal e-mail to conduct GPB business, silencing and intimidating her staff and creating a hostile environment that makes a true GPB/WRAS partnership impossible so long as she remains in charge.

After the meeting, Chairman McDougald released a statement supporting Ryan without addressing any of the specific concerns raised by students and alumni.

In March, the students filed an appeal to the Board of Regents outlining how the secret, back room deal to give WRAS to GPB violated University System procedures and damaged the students more than benefitting the University.

While calling out GSU administration for their bad behavior, the appeal also lays out how sleazy, dishonest and secretive GPB’s leadership was in the whole process. Students and alumni were to bring all this to the Commission’s attention and renew their call for Ryan’s dismissal at its long-scheduled April 15th meeting. On the morning of the 15th it was abruptly canceled.

Guess the commission members are off the hook until July, right?

Don’t let them. Let’s look closely at these cowards and cronies and bring them the kind of intense public shaming only an obscure, Atlanta-specific blog can unleash:

Chairman Mike McDougald was already profiled on these pages. Last summer he promised that GPB’s new venture into Atlanta radio would use no taxpayer funds but would instead be funded by new donations. Is that the case? Nearly a year into this unpopular and destructive partnership, shouldn’t he be at the forefront of keeping the public up to date on its success or failure? To assure us he’s a man of his word?

Vice Chair Janice “Jan” Paul is the wife of Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul who was also a State Senator and two-time Chair of the Georgia Republican Party.

Board member Don Doran is Principal at Drew Charter School and previously served “as Executive Director for an Atlanta Public Schools’ Reform Team.”

Paul Garcia is the retired CEO of Global Payments Inc. He serves on the Metro-Atlanta Chamber of Commerce Board and is a Director on several corporate boards. He gave $2,500 to Nathan Deal in 2014.

Jordan Gillis is part of a Power Couple whose wife is “a political powerhouse and one of the most sought-after fundraisers for the Georgia Republican Party.”

Donna Hyland is President and Chief Executive Officer of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. She serves on several prominent boards including both the Metro-Atlanta and Georgia Chambers of Commerce. Her bio also notes she “was appointed by Governor Nathan Deal to the Child Welfare Reform Council and the Georgia Public Telecommunications Commission and appointed by First Lady Sandra Deal to serve on the Georgia Children’s Cabinet.”

In the 2014 election she gave $1000 to Nathan Deal and to U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell.

Mary Ellen Imlay is a philanthropist and President of the Imlay Foundation. She’s the only board member I could find that donated to a recent Democratic candidate, having given $6,000 to Jason Carter in his race against Gov. Deal. As such, she’s very outnumbered on GPB’s Board. In addition, her husband, recently passed away.

Craig Lesser is the Managing Partner of Pendleton Consulting Group. His bio notes “Until 2007, Craig served as Commissioner of Economic Development for the State of Georgia where he was the Chief Marketing Officer responsible for investment, trade and tourism. Governor Sonny Perdue appointed him to this post in 2004.”

It also says “He has been recognized by Georgia Trend, James Magazine and the Atlanta Business Chronicle as one of Georgia’s most influential people….”

Well, as “a graduate of the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School, Leadership Georgia and the Regional Leadership Institute,” good leadership must mean a lot to him. And he’s okay with how Teya Ryan has led GPB?

Craig Lesser gave Nathan Deal’s campaign $5000 in 2014 and more to others—including $500 to Chip Rogers in 2010, $2,700 to Sam Olens in 2014 and $2300 to Nathan Deal in 2010.

There they are. The men and women in charge of keeping Georgia Public Broadcasting (“What a terrible, corrupt organization this is”) honest.

When the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal gradually started gaining the public’s attention, business and civic leaders like these sought to cover up the corruption instead of rooting it out. That seems to be everyone’s plan again. Even if it means stealing student activity fees, destroying an iconic Atlanta radio treasure and cementing even further Georgia’s growing reputation as perhaps the most corrupt state in the country.

Heckuva job, y’all.

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Atlanta, Georgia, Media

One Comment

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  1. Student in GSU Library April 22, 2015 — 12:22 am

    Thank you so much…..


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