PBS Needs Indies Steering Committee formed

The filmmakers' movement to support public television's public purpose and mission has now moved to a new level, with the formation of a steering committee and full participation by the International Documentary Association, the world's leading member organization promoting documentary film. The initial members of the committee are the following veteran and award-winning filmmakers who have long supported and been supported by public television: Beth Bird, Heather Courtney, Marshall Curry, Tim Horsburgh (for KTQ), Byron Hurt, Brad Lichtenstein, Steve Mendelsohn, Paco de Onis, Gordon Quinn, Julia Reichert, Bernardo Ruiz, Carlos Sandoval, Renee Tajima-Pena, Michael Winship, Pamela Yates.

The committee's first action was to craft a new open letter to PBS, and to begin planning for public events that can showcase the critical importance of public-purpose programming to public television and to the nation's media ecology.


Second open letter to PBS from PBS Needs Indies:

This steering committee came into being because PBS had moved Independent Lens off the core schedule, to Thursdays, the one night in the week that PBS has pledged not to program. This put it into direct conflict with many stations’ local programming. We were alarmed to see, in a recent Current article, the immediate effects on the viewership for Independent Lens, and feared for POV’s audience should that series also be moved when its season starts in June. Our "PBS Needs Indies" open letter received high profile support from groups such as the IDA, WGA East, NALIP, and Women Make Movies, as well as a wave of PBS viewer support resulting from a blog by Bill Moyers. Over 1,000 filmmakers and viewers have now pledged their support for these programs.

We are grateful and appreciate PBS’ willingness, announced as of March 23, to reconsider that move. We eagerly look forward to PBS giving both of these series a designated slot on the PBS core schedule, where audiences can find it in the same place every week.

We highly value PBS’ role in showcasing programs that allow viewers to become more active members of their society. While Independent Lens and POV shows are far from the only examples of such public television programs, they join other such work in showcasing overlooked issues, reaching underserved audiences, connecting with younger and more diverse viewers, engaging viewers far beyond the screen, and enriching the nation’s media landscape.

This incident has renewed our community’s awareness of the critical value of PBS to the national media ecology. We know that public broadcasting, uniquely funded by taxpayers, reaches people at every level of society, in virtually every locality in the country. And we will continue to foster dialogue among the community of independent filmmakers about the significance of public broadcasting, and their own role in it. 


If you want to participate in the movement to support the public purpose of public TV, among other ways by supporting the visibility of Independent Lens and POV, consider: