After hundreds of independent producers flocked to sign an open letter to PBS by Kartemquin Films, and the Independent Documentary Association endorsed the campaign, the public TV programmer has agreed to find a home on the core schedule for Independent Lens and POV. These are the two series that showcase the work of independent producers who raise issues typically under-reported in the media, reach audiences underserved by commercial media, and who experiment, innovate and take leadership in the digital transformation.
Within just three days of the announcement of Kartemquin's open letter, a number of distinguished independent filmmakers had added their names including, just to name a few: Alex Gibney, Michael Moore, Bill Moyers & Michael Winship, Barbara Kopple, DA Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus, Marshall Curry, John Patrick Shanley, Mary Harron, Steve James, David Grubin, Tony Fontana, Laura Poitras, Jessica Yu, Chuck Workman, and Joan Churchill.
It’s still unclear, as the New York Times reports it, where the series will go. Independents have made clear that they are both delighted at the switch, and are also eagerly watching for the decision on the home for these series.
Public broadcasting’s special status as a public service is recognized, among other ways, by a federal governmental reservation of spectrum for public broadcasting stations, and contributions by local, state and federal taxpayers to the budgets of those stations. In turn, the stations then purchase programming packages, including from the single most important supplier for television programming, PBS. The decision to return the series to the core schedule is effectively a recognition that such voices serve the public mission in ways crucial to the justification of public broadcasting’s special status.