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PBS and WNET Keep Independent Documentary in Primetime

After months of public and private discussion that raised fundamental questions about the purpose of public TV, PBS and WNET have struck an agreement to support the public TV series that showcase diverse, independent voices: Independent Lens and POV. 

PBS and WNET announced the development of a new strategy for programming that not only keeps the series in their primetime slot of Monday nights at 10 p.m. but will draw on digital content and distribution, social media and marketing for the mission-focused content.

The news comes after four months of widespread community and filmmaker opposition triggered by a December 2014 announcement that WNET Channel 13 planned to move the programs from the primetime spot to instead be broadcast on its Long Island sister station. PBS and WNET subsequently agreed to participate in a National Listening tour in which not only filmmakers, but community groups, educators and others testified to the significance of documentary programming for maintaining diverse and independent view points on public TV.

PBS offers recognition of both the value of the diverse perspectives brought by independent film and new strategies for promoting that content.

“PBS and our local stations are the home for independent film, presenting a variety of viewpoints and perspectives on important issues, which are fundamental elements of public media’s mission. After months of constructive discussion with the independent film community, we are pleased to present a new strategy that we believe will better support this important work and help us reach the younger, diverse audiences who are among the most passionate fans of indies,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming for PBS.

The Indie Caucus, which had brought the creative community into the discussions, celebrated the first steps toward collaboration.

"The Indie Caucus is encouraged to see WNET, PBS, Independent Lens and POV working together to support the series that showcase independent, diverse perspectives. The Indie Caucus is also proud to have been one of catalysts for the PBS listening tour, which engaged independent producers, viewers and organizations around the country. that depend on innovative, diverse programs. We stand ready to support the initiatives to support Independent Lens and POV, and we will continue to watch carefully how these welcome promises are implemented.  We continue to believe that these series, which speak to the core mission of public TV, can with real support from stations, PBS and the creative community continue to grow their audience."

In addition to the 10 p.m. broadcasts, PBS has plans to pair the series with thematically related programming to maximize viewership potential for the timeslot. PBS is also committing to social media and marketing promotion, development of strategic promotional material, and theatrical release for several films. Digital distribution will be beefed up with the re-launch of pbs.org/indiefilms and a new licensing agreement with Indieflix.

Additional coverage on the announcement is available via Variety and Current reporting.