Thursday, March 23, 2023

PBS Bolsters Diversity Efforts With New Funding Initiatives, Producing Partner Criteria, D&I Exec Hire

PBS on Tuesday introduced several new funding initiatives, revealed updated producing partner criteria and announced that it has hired an SVP Diversity Equity and Inclusion.

The moves, revealed on the first day of the pubcaster’s TCA summer press tour slate, come as PBS faced questions at the last TCA tour in March about its record presenting content from BIPOC filmmakers, via a letter signed by more than 100 filmmakers involved in the Beyond Inclusion coalition. They were responding to PBS boss Paula Kerger’s comments of the pubcaster’s commitment to Ken Burns, who has created hundreds of hours of docuseries about American history on topics ranging from the Civil War and baseball to Muhammad Ali and jazz.

The new initiatives unveiled today will support research and development, production, and mentorship opportunities for producers and filmmakers from underrepresented groups, the pubcaster said. In addition, it hired Cecilia Loving, formerly New York City Fire Department Deputy Commissioner, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, as its SVP Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. In the new role, she will report to Karger and be tasked with developing organizational strategy, providing ongoing advice and counsel, and cultivating future partnerships.

PBS also said it is updating its producing criteria, requiring producers to create and share their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plans for all new agreements, series renewals and direct-to-PBS programs; require producers to describe how their project aligns with PBS’ DEI principles; and require that producers disclose representation data for production team members including above-the-line talent (directors, writers, producers, creators) and below-the-line positions.

The updated guidelines will be standard across all PBS platforms including general audience programming, children’s programming and PBS Digital Studios. PBS said it will share this data in its annual diversity report.

Among the more than $10 million in funding announced today:

  • PBS and the Corporation of Public Broadcasting will award $5.5 million over three years to Firelight Media, a nonprofit filmmaking company founded by Stanley Nelson and Marcia Smith. The grant will support the Firelight Documentary Lab and Groundwork Regional Labs programs, with digital short films to be commissioned from fellows or alumni and other regional BIPOC filmmakers for the PBS system.
  • PBS Digital Studios will use a $3 million grant from the CPB to establish three Regional Digital Centers of Innovation, partnering with up to three PBS member stations located in geographically diverse markets across the country, with an aim of elevating the voices of diverse content creators to produce up to 15 new digital series over the next two years for platforms like YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and IGTV.
  • PBS Digital Studios also was given $2.5 million by the U.S. National Science Foundation to create STEM-related short-form videos; the pubcaster noted that viewer data and PBS surveys suggest Black and Hispanic viewers, and women overall, are underrepresented in audiences for STEM content online.

The pubcaster’s TCA presentations continue through Thursday.


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