Charles Benton is chairman of the board of the Benton Foundation, a leading advocate for communications in the public interest, and chairman of Public Media Inc., a film and video publisher and distributor. During his career as a businessman, as foundation president, and in government service, Mr. Benton has been committed to the field of public interest communications.
Beginning with his work at Encyclopedia Britannica Films, and as president at the Encyclopedia Britannica Education Corporation, Mr. Benton established himself in the field of educational, informational, cultural, and entertainment media. He has experience in managing various holdings, including Public Media Inc., Films Incorporated, Home Vision, and Lionheart Television Inc., which distributed the work of BBC, ABC Australia, and several independent producers to public and commercial stations throughout the US.
Mr. Benton was president of the William Benton Foundation when it initiated and provided the $200,000 grant that the League of Women Voters used to fund the televised presidential forums during the 1976 primaries. Those forums led to the televised presidential debates sponsored by the League later in 1976--the first such event since the Nixon-Kennedy debates of 1960. In 1981, Mr. Benton established the new Washington, DC-based Benton Foundation, which has since become a leader of communications policies and projects in the public interest.
In 1978, President Carter appointed Mr. Benton as chairman of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science and as chairman of the First White House Conference on Library and Information Services, held in November of 1979. In 1980, he was reappointed for an additional five-year term, during which time he was elected chairman emeritus by unanimous vote of NCLIS commissioners. In the fall of 1997, he was appointed by President Clinton as a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on "The Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters." The Benton Foundation was appointed as the legatee for the Committee's report and recommendations that were submitted to Vice President Gore on December 18, 1998.
Throughout his career, Mr. Benton has been an active board member and advisor for organizations in the arts, education and communications, including service on the original Illinois Arts Council Board, the Illinois Humanities Council and currently as chairman of the Cultural Collections Committee and board member of the Field Museum. He has served on the boards of the Eisenhower Exchange Fellowships and The American Assembly for more than 30 years, and was a trustee of the University of Chicago, Hampton Institute, and National College of Education for numerous terms. In film and television, Mr. Benton was a member of the founding board of the American Film Institute, served on the board of Chicago's major public television station (WTTW) for 10 years, and was president of the National Citizen Committee for Broadcasting in the 1970s.
A graduate of Yale University, Mr. Benton did post graduate work at Northwestern University and the National College of Education and taught fifth grade at the Washington Elementary School in Evanston, IL.
He is married to Marjorie Craig Benton and they have three children: Adrianne Furniss, Craig and Scott, and four grandchildren.