Originally a theatre student, George Beneman never thought he would be recognized for the decades of behind-the-scenes work he did for television.
Beneman, a Jewish resident of Reisterstown and senior vice president of Maryland Public Television (MPT), is a pioneer who has more than 50 years of broadcasting excellence under his belt. In a Dec. 7 ceremony in College Park, the National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences inducted Beneman into its Gold Circle Society, which honors those who have made significant contributions to the television industry for more than 50 years.
Beneman’s responsibilities include oversight of operations and management of a staff of more than 50 artisans who operate studios and post-production facilities, transmission and broadcasting systems, and computer networks, according to a press release. He is also responsible for the statewide TV network’s 135,000 square foot physical plant, which includes the upcoming $9 million expansion of MPT’s largest production studio, plus a new exterior for the Owings Mills headquarters.
“George was here at the beginning of public television in Maryland 50 years ago,” said Larry D. Unger, MPT president and chief executive officer. Since then, the industry has been met with competitors like Disney+, Netflix, and YouTube. What was once a broad station featuring diverse programming now faces competition from niche networks specializing in cooking, travel, politics, and so on.
“That itself is a big way TV has changed. The market has changed, it used to be four stations, now one of dozens in the market,” said Beneman. “And the way viewership is, a lot of folks never watched linear broadcasting, where you get home from work, watch the news, stay with it.”
He paused. “Now, with DVR, streaming on any device anytime, it’s sort of — it’s like [your] TV, not MPT TV. That’s changed the total landscape of programming.”
Commercials can be bypassed and information is gathered differently. The solution?
“I think you have to continue to reinvent what you’re doing and be ready for all the disruptive technologies that come almost on a daily basis,” he said. “You have to see what they are, and adapt differently. If you looked at Uber, it’s disruptive to the taxi business. A car is disruptive to the horse and buggy.” Beneman added that MPT reflects that change and is growing. It has streaming, YouTube channels, and legacy programming.
How the public learns about new restaurants, new movies, new fashion, is all found on different mediums now. “You go to Twitter, not the Baltimore Sun,” he said. “We have to adapt the same way print has to adapt to survive.”
— Carolyn Conte