Producing for PBS Names & Faces

Beth Hoppe
Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming

Beth Hoppe is Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming at PBS. In this role, she oversees all PBS general audience primetime programming, fundraising programming, and PBS Plus, a package of fully funded programs for stations' use in their weekend schedules. She is responsible for creating and implementing PBS’ primetime content strategy, building on PBS’ series and commissioning new programming working with producers, partners, and funding sources.


Ms. Hoppe joined PBS in 2011 as Vice President, General Audience Programming.  She has shepherded programs including YOUR INNER FISH (Tangled Bank Studios and Windfall Films), HAWKING (DSP), and CALL THE MIDWIFE (Neal Street Productions) to the schedule. In 2013, Ms. Hoppe spear-headed a primetime special event, assembling a series of programs to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's death.  These titles included AMERICAN EXPERIENCE - JFK, NOVA - COLD CASE JFK, SECRETS OF THE DEAD - JFK: ONE PM CENTRAL STANDARD TIME, and a special report on PBS NEWSHOUR that featured former anchors Robin MacNeil and Jim Lehrer and their original reporting on President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.


Ms. Hoppe joined PBS from Discovery Studios. Prior to that she was President and CEO of Optomen Productions (USA), a New York-based television production company known for science, reality and factual programming. With Beth in the role of Executive Producer, Optomen produced numerous programs and series for Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, PBS, and the Food Network. Productions included Monsters Inside Me for Animal Planet, Worst Cooks in America for Food Network, Mars: The Quest for Life and Are We Alone? for Discovery and Science Channel and Most Evil for Discovery and I.D.


Ms. Hoppe spent the early part of her career in public broadcasting in roles ranging from production at NHPTV to directing The Ten O'Clock News at WGBH to series producer at NOVA to running science and history programs at WNET/Thirteen, and she is thrilled to be back in the PBS family.

Michael Kelley
Senior Vice President, Programming & Business Affairs

Michael Kelley is Senior Vice President, Programming & Business Affairs at PBS. In this role, he is responsible for developing and integrating content and business strategy across General Audience and Children’s Programming. Mr. Kelley manages Business Affairs, which negotiates all PBS production agreements; Production Management, which analyzes production schedules and budgets; and Content Services, which manages program delivery and packaging.

Mr. Kelley joined PBS in 2008 as Vice President, Strategy and Operations. In this role, he developed and implemented corporate strategy, tracked the overall performance of the organization, and managed the PBS content budget. He then served as Vice President, Strategy and Business Affairs, adding oversight of Business Affairs and Production Management to his portfolio.

Prior to joining PBS, Mr. Kelley was a management consultant at Eagle Hill Consulting and PricewaterhouseCoopers, working with media and telecommunications clients. He also spent time at AOL working in corporate strategy and product development.

Bill Gardner
Vice President, Programming and Development

Bill Gardner oversees the acquisition, development and production of historical, cultural, current and world events, natural history and science programming for the PBS Primetime schedule as Vice President, Programming and Development.

Before joining PBS, Mr. Gardner was executive producer at Discovery Studios, where he developed projects in the reality, lifestyle and science genres. He also oversaw national productions including Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl and served as show runner on Science Channel’s Human Nature with Dan Riskin.

Prior to Discovery, he spent over a decade in the independent production world as director, producer, writer and show runner on programs for multiple networks, including Digging for the Truth on the History Channel, Treasure Quest and Solving History on Discovery, CNN Presents and Explorer for National Geographic.

Mr. Gardner has produced in over 30 countries, including spending two months embedded with US Special Forces investigating the looting of the Baghdad museum. During this time he was also the first Westerner allowed to film inside the holy Shi’i Shrines of Hussein and Abbas in Karbala. 

Before entering television, Mr. Gardner performed anthropological fieldwork among Arab expatriates in the United States, in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and among Muslim Sufi mystics in Marrakech, Morocco, as well as in the world of crack cocaine addiction in the US Virgin Islands. He is a member of the board of CINE and has a Masters Degree in cultural anthropology.

Marie Nelson
Vice President, News & Public Affairs

As Vice President, News & Public Affairs for PBS, Marie Nelson is responsible for collaborating with executive producers of acclaimed PBS news and public affairs series, as well as independent producers, to develop and direct innovative approaches to engage audiences in current events across these programs and platforms.

Ms. Nelson is a seasoned content developer with experience in public media and other broadcast and cable organizations. Prior to PBS, she served as executive producer of national programs at PBS member station WGBH. At WGBH, she oversaw the production of AMERICA BY THE NUMBERS, an eight-part documentary series that explores the impact of America’s changing demographics.

Prior to WGBH, Ms. Nelson was the acting vice president of news & original programming for BET Networks, where she oversaw a range of cross-platform projects, including Battleground 2012, a yearlong politics initiative. She also served as the founding executive producer for NPR’s “Tell Me More” and as a producer for “Nightline” with Ted Koppel and “World News Tonight” at ABC News. Nelson has also served in public affairs and international development roles with the U.S. Department of State, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and Africare.

Donald H. Thoms
Vice President, General Audience Programming

Donald Thoms is Vice President of General Audience Programming at PBS and is oversees editorial development and production for programs in the Arts, Performance, Drama, Lifestyle and Cultural areas. Donald also works with Independent producers, and programs and projects surrounding diversity. He also leads Talent Development.

Prior to re-joining PBS, Mr. Thoms, who is a seasoned broadcaster and executive, was President of ThomsMediaGroup LLC, a multimedia and multiplatform consulting organization. In this role, Mr. Thoms worked with clients, both commercial, cable and public television in the areas of television production, acquisition, program development, on line content, talent development, and casting.

Mr. Thoms is a multi-award winning producer, director, journalist, and executive producer. He has overseen the production of thousand of hours of television content and managed staffs and major budgets for Maryland Public Television, PBS and Discovery Communications, where he helped launch Discovery Health Channel. Mr. Thoms has also worked in the areas of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs during his entire career. Mr. Thoms can be seen throughout the year as an on-air talent for public television’s fundraising drives.

Mr. Thoms has served as Vice President of Talent Development and Diversity for Discovery Communications. In this role, Mr. Thoms managed the efforts to locate and cast on-screen talent for the networks of Discovery, including developing diverse talents for on air.   

He joined Discovery in 1999 as Head of Production for the newly launched Discovery Health Channel and oversaw the day-to-day operations of the production team and was responsible for a wide array of original and co-productions. In addition, he steered the strategic planning, management, and execution of all content, as well as managed parallel production plans among television, online, new media, and other businesses.
During Mr. Thoms’ time with Discovery Health Channel, the network saw double-digit growth in ad sales revenue and ratings and many of the network’s most successful projects, both daytime and primetime, were grown under Thoms: National Body Challenge, Dr. G: Medical Examiner, You: The Owner's Manual, Mystery Diagnosis, Lifeline, Super Surgery, and Birthday Live!

Before joining Discovery, Mr. Thoms served as Vice President of Program Management at PBS where he was responsible for overseeing the packaging and delivery of PBS’ programming services. In addition, he developed and evaluated programming projects, served as Special Projects executive, as well as helped to develop on-air promotional initiatives for key programs. While at PBS, Mr. Thoms was the face and contact for independent and minority producers coming to public television.  He created PBS’ INDEPENDENT LENS, still in production, which features the works of independent filmmakers. While at PBS, Mr. Thoms served as its EEO officer.

For many years Mr. Thoms produced, directed and oversaw regional television production and Community Outreach at Maryland Public Television (MPT) and was named one of the 25 people who had the most impact on MPT’s history and success.

A native of Baltimore, Mr. Thoms serves as a Board of Trustee for CENTERSTAGE, the state theater of Maryland, and is the former President of CINE, the 53-year-old organization that recognizes excellence in film and video making.

Linda Simensky
Vice President, Children’s Programming

As Vice President of Children's Programming for PBS, Linda Simensky collaborates with producers, co-production partners and distributors throughout development, production, post-production and broadcast for existing and new series including Curious George, Super Why!, Dinosaur Train, The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That, Sid the Science Kid, Martha Speaks, WordGirl, The Electric Company, and Wild Kratts.

Prior to joining PBS, Ms. Simensky was Senior Vice President of Original Animation for Cartoon Network, where she oversaw the development and series production of The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack, Courage the Cowardly Dog and other major projects.

Ms. Simensky began her career with a nine-year tenure at Nickelodeon, where she helped build the animation department and launch such popular series as Rugrats, Doug and The Ren & Stimpy Show.

She is a past-president of ASIFA-East, and the founder of New York chapter of Women in Animation. She has lectured at numerous colleges and animation festivals, and has taught courses in animation at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She has written for numerous animation publications and has had several essays published in books including "Nickelodeon Nation" and "The Children's Television Community."

Ms. Simensky holds a BA in Communications & History from the University of Pennsylvania and an MA in Media Ecology from New York University.