ITVS International's Global Perspectives Project Creates New Way for Citizens of the World to Engage in Direct Public Diplomacy

Independent Film Exchange Is Culmination of Unique Private-Public Partnership Developed to Meet Growing Need for Meaningful International Dialogue

Ground-Breaking Worldwide Media Initiative Coming to Screens Large, Small and Handheld, October 2007 and Beyond

(San Francisco, CA/Washington, DC, October 1, 2007)— The Independent Television Service (ITVS) announced today that beginning in October 2007 and continuing throughout 2008, nearly 40 programs funded by ITVS International and created by independent producers around the world will premiere to audiences across the United States via broadcast on PBS and the digital PBS World channel and on major commercial channels such as Sundance Channel and National Geographic Channel (six broadcasters in all); via digital distribution on AOL and JAMAN; and via mobile phone through a partnership with iThentic. 

To date, through its Global Perspectives Project (GPP), ITVS International has supported the production of 54 programs representing 41 different countries. Funded by private foundations, the project aims to support and broadcast an additional 50 programs by international producers through 2010. 

Going in the other direction of the GPP pipeline, ITVS International has also launched True Stories: Life in the USA, an outgoing series of independent documentaries by U.S. filmmakers, which is currently being broadcast in three countries on three different continents—Africa, Asia and South America—with several more countries slated to join in the coming year. 

The series aims to go beyond headline news and big screen blockbusters to provide more authentic perspectives of the United States and its people, such as life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, a rural West Virginia coal-mining community’s fight to survive, or the heroic struggle of a Hawai’ian surfer battling breast cancer. If continued public funding for True Stories is secured, ITVS International aims to have the series broadcast in 35-40 countries by 2010. 

“Americans and people in other countries need new ways to see each other,” said ITVS President and CEO Sally Fifer. “They need a chance to hear each other’s voices and see the world through someone else’s eyes. The work of independent documentary filmmakers is authentic, in-depth, and personal, but it rarely travels across borders. We’ve put together the partners to open the doors, and bring people here and around the world new points-of-view they seldom see on television.” In 2005, in partnership with several leading private foundations—the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Ford Foundation and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation—along with the U.S. Department of State, the Independent Television Service (ITVS) created ITVS International to launch its Global Perspectives Project (GPP). The project’s unique mission is to bring unheard international points-of-view to U.S. audiences, and to provide a platform for unheard U.S. points-of-view to international audiences via the medium of independent documentary film. 

Through an unparalleled two-way exchange of television broadcasts, community outreach activities and online and other digital initiatives, the project aims to connect citizens to citizens, helping people in the United States and other countries see each other, hear each other and ultimately, to better understand each other. 

“The Global Perspectives Project spearheads a fresh approach to building better understanding of America abroad. The program is successfully using quality television documentary film to introduce new foreign audiences to America and to build international social networks that will yield lasting results for years to come,” said U.S. Ambassador James F. Collins, ITVS International advisory board chair. “Its arrival comes at a vital juncture for the United States and our place in the world.” 

On Monday evening, October 1st, ITVS will mark the public launch of its international initiatives with a major event hosted at the National Geographic Society. The event will consist of a screening of the ITVS International funded film, PLEASE VOTE FOR ME, followed by a panel moderated by Ray Suarez, Senior Correspondent for PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and featuring several well-known experts in the area of Foreign Policy, including Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-CA) of the House International Relations Committee, and Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution. Other prominent guest speakers will include U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel, Ambassador Sudjadnan Parnohadiningrat of the Republic of Indonesia and Patricia S. Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 

The project’s roots lie in the wake of 9/11 and U.S. military operations abroad, as diverse organizations began to search for new strategies to bridge a growing global divide. As early as 2002, a unique public-private partnership spearheaded by ITVS began exploring ways to open up a two-way exchange of these independent documentaries between the United States and other nations. 

This partnership united private foundations committed to bringing more international perspectives to U.S. audiences; Congress and State Department leadership looking for new approaches to public diplomacy; and ITVS, a public media organization with deep roots in international public television and the global community of independent filmmakers. 

In addition to these key partners, to help guide its mission and raise the profile of the new project, the ITVS International Advisory Board boasts a veritable “who’s who” list of experts and pundits in the area of diplomacy and foreign policy including, Congressman Lee Hamilton, Professor Joseph Nye and Ambassador Edward Djerejian, as well as celebrity notables Danny Glover and Benicio del Toro. 

ITVS International’s Global Perspective Project: A Two-Way Exchange

1. INCOMING: The project’s International Media Development Fund (IMDF) is the incoming component that provides production funding for non-U.S. independent filmmakers. The IMDF also works to distribute completed programs through public television and cable broadcast partners and helps maximize impact through publicity, community outreach and online initiatives. To date, the IMDF has funded more than 50 documentaries representing over 40 countries. 

Beginning in fall 2007 and continuing throughout 2008, 36 of these programs will have been broadcast, with more commitments coming on-line regularly. ITVS International has established a network of relationships with both public and private broadcast outlets including PBS series such as Wide Angle, FRONTLINE/World, P.O.V., Independent Lens and Secrets of the Dead and the PBS WORLD digital channel’s Global Docs series, and commercial channels such as Sundance Channel, IFC, National Geographic Channel, The Documentary Channel and LINK TV. In addition, ITVS International has developed distribution deals with digital and mobile outlets such as JAMAN, AOL, CURRENT and iThentic. 

2. OUTGOING:True Stories: Life in the U.S.A. is the project’s outgoing component that brings to other countries a series of documentaries made by U.S. independent filmmakers. The first season of True Stories was hosted by actor Benicio Del Toro and included 16 U.S. documentaries, which aired to enthusiastic public television audiences in Malawi and Peru in 2006-2007. Broadcast partners in Bahrain, Colombia, Hong Kong and Indonesia have joined for 2007-2008. If ITVS International is successful in securing continued public funding for the series, broadcasts are planned in a total of 35-40 countries by 2010. 

True Stories has been a major success in Indonesia. Our channel has received feedback/calls, etc. from viewers around the country letting us know how much they enjoyed the series. We believe that these programs offer new and different perspectives of the United States, which give our audience a broader and more accurate scope of the country and its people,” said President Director of Televisi Republik Indonesia, Mr. I Gde Nyoman Arsana. 

Partners The GPP is a unique and complex private-public partnership. On the private side, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Ford Foundation and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation have committed five years of funding to the incoming IMDF project component. On the public side, Congress has supported the outgoing True Stories project component on a yearly basis through the U.S. Department of State, with the support of U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein. 

Operations All aspects of the project are operated by ITVS International, a division of the Independent Television Service. Founded by Congress and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, ITVS began operations in 1991 with a mission to ensure that independent and diverse voices find a place on public television. ITVS is now the largest supplier of independently-produced programming to public television in the United States. Since then, ITVS has helped bring more than 700 independently-produced programs to public television. Programming awards include six Academy Award nominees, 10 national Emmy winners, nine Peabody winners, five duPont-Columbia winners and 15 Sundance Award winners, among many others. 

“ITVS remains as committed as ever to bringing untold stories by and about underserved communities to the widest and most diverse possible audience,” said Fifer. “Through ITVS International and our Global Perspectives Project, we are expanding on that mission—to create and sustain meaningful dialogue and an open exchange of ideas—now to the global community through the powerful medium of independent film.” 

Interactive More information about the project, full descriptions and clips of the films, photos and biographies of the filmmakers along with many other interactive features are all available online at the ITVS International Interactive Online Portal at 


ITVS International is a division of the Independent Television Service that promotes an international exchange of documentary films made by independent producers, bringing international voices to U.S. audiences, and American stories to audiences abroad. 

Through a unique public-private partnership called the Global Perspectives Project, ITVS International administers the International Media Development Fund (IMDF) and True Stories: Life in the USA. The IMDF funds international producers and supports the American broadcast of their programs. True Stories: Life in the U.S.A. promotes a series of American independent films to audiences around the world. 

ITVS created the Global Perspectives Project in 2005 with support from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Ford Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the U.S. Department of State. More information is available online at 

CONTACT: Randall Cole, Senior Publicity Manager, ITVS or 415-356-8383, ext. 254 Dennis Palmieri, Director of Communications, ITVS or 415-356-8383, ext. 256

Posted on September 28, 2007