Southern California Public Radio president/CEO Herb Scannell has announced his plans to retire after four years at the organization, which operates KPCC-FM (“LAist 89.3”), LAist.com and LAist Studios. Scannell, the Nickelodeon vet who later ran BBC Worldwide North America and Mitú, will remain in the role until a new successor is named.
The SCPR board has started a search for Scannell’s replacement. “Herb has helped accomplish precisely what we hoped when he joined us four years ago,” Drew Murphy, chair of the Board of Trustees of SCPR, said in a statement. Murphy said that included “building platforms to reach new audiences, aligning the organization to be more diverse in its staffing and its journalism, and creating a unified and more visible brand position in Los Angeles and the region. He has laid the foundation for the next era of contributions SCPR can make in the community as a reliable news source for everyone, even while managing effectively through the pandemic.
“SPCR is well positioned for the changing future we face that is fact-based and with a mind always on diversity, equity and inclusion to reflect the Los Angeles community it serves. We are grateful to Herb and wish him well as he moves into retirement.”
Under Scannell’s watch, KPCC changed its on-air branding to “LAist 89.3,” mirroring the name of the website LAist.com, which SCPR acquired in 2018. SCPR also launched LAist Studios on 2019 to produce podcass such as “How to LA” and “California City.” Recently, LAist announced the return of the limited series podcast and on-air series “Imperfect Paradise,” which relaunches on Sept. 27 and is hosted by Antonia Cereijido.
Additionally, in September 2022, LAist.com received an Online News Association Award for best website. KPCC/LAist 89.3 continues to rank as the top-rated public radio station in the Los Angeles market.
“I’m immensely appreciative of being a part of SCPR and to have helped enhance our role as an essential voice of and for Los Angeles.” said Scannell. “I will retire with confidence that the extraordinary team at SCPR can continue to bring a multiplicity of compelling voices and programming to an ever-more diverse audience within Los Angeles and beyond.”
According to SCPR, the org saw a “38% growth in revenue” under Scannell’s watch. The broadcaster revamped the radio station’s lineup around flagship show AirTalk, anchored by Larry Mantle, along with hosts Austin Cross (mid-afternoon / Friday AirTalk), Julia Paskin (weekends), Susanne Whatley (mornings) and Nick Roman (drivetime).
“SCPR’s employees are remarkable for their commitment to and accomplishments in public service,” Scannell added. “These past few years—with Covid-19, George Floyd’s death, the insurrection—have been the most difficult years of many of our lives and their journalism was more essential than ever. Our journalists, fundraising teams, and general staff kept the organization centered in the community and made sure we could provide L.A. with the information, solutions, and support to meet the challenges we all experienced. Our radio hosts—led by Larry Mantle—have been voices of reason and calm during it all. This level of excellence is the hallmark of the SCPR team, not just in challenging times, but in daily life here in Los Angeles – they bring a commitment that is unlike any I’ve seen in my long career in media.”
Scannell first joined Nickelodeon in 1988, eventually making his way up to vice chairman of MTV Networks and president of Nickelodeon Networks, where he oversaw all creative and business operations for a portfolio of brands including Nickelodeon, TV Land and Spike TV.
Scannell also expanded Nickelodeon’s brand into feature films, consumer products, magazines, online, live theatrical shows and an L.A.-based animation studio. He led Nickelodeon as it expanded its programming output to include everything from “SpongeBob SquarePants” to “Dora the Explorer.”
Later, he spent five years as president of BBC Worldwide North America, the Beeb’s U.S. production and distribution arm, building up the U.S. production operation with the development of buzzy hits such as “Orphan Black” and helping shape the BBC America cable channel. Scannell was the founding CEO of online-video network Next New Networks, which was later acquired by YouTube. And prior to SCPR, he served as CEO at Latino digital-media company Mitú.