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PBS Decides to Showcase Indie Work

PBSNeedsIndiesResponding to an outpouring of filmmaker and viewer enthusiasm for Independent Lens and POV, PBS has reinstated the two programs on its core schedule. The two programs will now take the 10pm EST spot on Monday nights, prime TV programming real estate. The two public TV programs showcase and sometimes debut among the best independent films each season (IL in the fall, and POV in the spring).


In March, filmmakers sent a crisply worded open letter to PBS about the threat of these two anchor series being moved off the core schedule, to a night stations programmed their own material and therefore often had no room for them. Bill Moyers and Michael Winship added their “tough love” to the message, and so did hundreds of passionately committed viewers. A #PBSNeedsIndies coalition formed, led by Kartemquin Films

Many saw the move as a sign that PBS was moving away from the diverse, independent, multi-faceted programming that makes it a unique public service. Independent filmmakers have long brought diversity and fresh perspectives to the service. A Center for Social Media report showed strong support for public-purpose programming by the 700 viewers who signed the filmmakers' letter. 


PBS’ choice to give independent film series such a good spot now sends the clear message that it values public-purpose, mission-driven programming.  PBS also plans a 2013 film festival, designed to be carried at the same time across the country, which will shine a spotlight on the series and further associate PBS with independent and diverse voices.

“Working with PBS and Independent Lens over the last few months to work out the details on this has made our relationship stronger than ever before,” said Simon Kilmurry, co-director of POV. “We also drew energy from the efforts of independent filmmakers on this, and we all want to tap that energy going forward.”

“We’re excited to get heightened awareness of great independent film on public TV,” said ITVS’ Lois Vossen. "What's been great about this is to see that independent filmmakers see themselves as allies of public TV. We''re on a positive path."

"Right to Be Heard"

Filmmakers were gratified. Gordon Quinn, a founder of Kartemquin Films and the co-leader with Carlos Sandoval of the coalition of filmmakers who crafted the open letter, said, “This is a good example of why public media—taxpayer-supported media--is so important, and why we care so much about public TV.  Because it is public, we have the right to be listened to. Within PBS’ vision and mandate is the need to be responsive to independent voices, to diverse voices, and to the many people who care about its distinctive public-purpose programming. “ 

Quinn said that the coalition would continue, and continue to support independent voices on public TV.