An interview with South Florida PBS President and CEO Dolores Sukhdeo
1. Dolores, tell us about your background and formal education?
I earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish Literature from Columbia University and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Miami. I began my television career in 1990 at the international newsgathering division of Disney/ABC News Inc. - Worldwide Television News in New York, NY. I worked my way up through the ranks from Sales Assistant to Regional Executive for the USA & Latin America. While at Worldwide Television News, I managed large scale news events including the Oklahoma City bombing, Olympics coverage, presidential elections and the United Nations 50th Anniversary.
2. Why did you decide to join South Florida PBS?
I have always watched and appreciated the value of public television so when the opportunity presented itself to combine my passion with my professional goals, I seized the opportunity.
3. You have a big responsibility in managing South Florida PBS with all of the content that you provide for the youth in the community. Please explain your role and duties to our readers.
As the nation’s most trusted institution, we have a duty and an obligation to provide lifelong learning opportunities to all our viewers many of whom begin their education and television experience by watching PBS programs. It is important to reach as many children as we can and provide educational programming that can make an impact in their cognitive and emotional development. We do it through our on-air broadcast on the South Florida PBS Kids Channel which offers children’s programming 24/7 and on our main channels during the day and afternoon. We also provide several digital outlets to supplement the learning on our broadcast channels. In April, due to the pandemic, we offered 12 hours of at home learning programming on the South Florida PBS Kids channel for children who do not have access to WiFi. Additionally, we offered several virtual learning experiences on our social media platforms.
4. South Florida PBS and Miami Kids Magazine have the same vision of integrating kids with disabilities into our community. What are the upcoming strategies for the station to continue with this concept?
Since 2016, South Florida PBS has been hosting paid internships for young adults with ASD. During this time, we have participated in staff trainings and have truly been partners with UM-NSU CARD in our dedication to providing a positive employment experience to individuals with ASD with an interest in broadcasting and communication. We try our best to create a welcoming environment for our interns, and in addition to the paid internship we have extended offers of permanent employment to some of the interns. In 2019, we were honored by the UMNSU CARD as Outstanding Business Partner – Miami-Dade County South Florida PBS. That was most gratifying.
Additionally, one of our programs, KidVision PreK, offers field trips and lesson plans that are appropriate for children with disabilities. They provide an opportunity for individualized instruction. The caregiver can watch the field trip with the child and discuss them at the child’s individual level of comprehension. The lesson plans are standards based and available for children 18 -to-24 months old, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds. The caregiver can do any of the 4 levels available or modify the lesson plans accordingly to the child. We have also included children with disabilities in the field trips.
5. Tell us about the procedures and protocol South Florida PBS is taking during times of COVID-19?
In these uncertain, rapidly evolving times, South Florida PBS is adapting to serve our community in new ways and create positive impact. Through South Florida PBS’ Health Channel we provided access to reliable information from credible sources about the spread, treatment, and prevention of the Coronavirus. For example, we started producing and airing Coronavirus short videos on a daily basis which included content sourced from the CDC, NIH & Baptist Health South Florida. Some of the topics we’ve covered are: Kids and adjusting to social distancing; Kids with autism and helping them cope with Coronavirus; Communicating effectively with kids during the Coronavirus pandemic; Pets and maintaining family health; Risks associated with the virus; and Precautions and safety measures, to name a few. We added a 24/7 news crawl on the Health Channel updated every two hours. We also transformed our in-person community outreach to virtual educational events for the whole family. Additionally, we produced various virtual events with medical experts that provided information about how to stay safe and healthy during the pandemic and over the summer produced content for broadcast and online which focused on COVID-19 safety measures, health related issues, mental health issues, vaccinations, how to talk to kids about issues related to the pandemic, and preparing parents and children for new school protocol.
6. What do you see as the future of public broadcasting in this country?
With the advent of ATSC 3.0, public television will not only continue to move into a multi-platform delivery but will also become an interactive medium which will finally allow for the viewing experience to become an immersive learning experience. Our vision is to create learning centers that provide immersive and interactive learning experiences for the whole family centered around our PBS Kids programs, our own locally produced programs, and PBS national programs for adults, as well as our South Florida PBS services like KidVision Pre-K.
Photographer: Enrique Tubio