The New Deal 1.5: Mission and Monetizing

American University's Center for Social Media and Independent Television Service (ITVS) Issue Groundbreaking Report on Digital Distribution

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 12, 2007) At the SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival, American University ’s Center for Social Media will release research that reveals current business practices around new digital distribution in television. The study was co-produced with the Independent Television Service (ITVS). 

“The new media marketplace is finally emerging and risk factors have changed. Focusing cautiously on monetizing in the short run could, for public broadcasting, be counterproductive if public broadcasting by so doing gives up the opportunity to create a public identity for itself and its most vital source of high-quality production—independent producers,” said Center for Social Media director Pat Aufderheide. 

Researcher Maryam Roberts interviewed more than 30 television executives in cable and public television, to discover current terms to acquire rights for video on demand, DVD and Internet distribution. 

“The documentary community must ensure that work of independent storytellers is seen by the largest possible audience and their voices contribute to the national conversation of ideas that is central to our democracy,” said SILVERDOCS Festival Director Patricia Finneran. “SILVERDOCS programs explore the future of documentary in the digital age. This report is an immensely valuable tool for making sense of the current marketplace.” 

The study recommends that for independent filmmakers and for public broadcasters, two stakeholders who uniquely need each other, this is a time to draw on each other’s capacities to make public media. 

More, it is a critical time to imagine a productive relationship to build truly public spaces in the online world. The study concludes that this is an excellent time for documentarians and public media executives to work together on demonstration projects online. 

“The new media landscape invites us to create a new kind of public media for a participatory era; to open the rich public media archive to new audiences; and to find new ways to champion the independent filmmakers whose work makes public broadcasting unique”, said ITVS President Sally Jo Fifer. “We hope this report will be the beginning of a fruitful conversation about the future of television for the people, by the people, no matter what kind of screen it’s on.” 

The Ford Foundation funded the study as part of its Global Perspectives in a Digital Age Initiative. Center director Pat Aufderheide spearheaded the research. Tamara Gould, vice president of distribution for ITVS, represented as co-producer.

 Read the report (PDF) >>

About American University’s Center for Social Media American University’s Center for Social Media showcases and analyzes strategies to use media as creative tools for public knowledge and action. It focuses on social documentaries for civil society and democracy, and on the public media environment that supports them. The Center is part of the AU’s School of Communication, a laboratory for professional education, communication research and innovative production across the fields of journalism, film and media arts, and public communication. 

About The Independent Television Service (ITVS) ITVS funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web and the Emmy® Award-winning weekly series Independent Lens on Tuesday nights at 10:00 PM on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. More information about ITVS can be obtained by visiting ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. 

To arrange an interview with Pat Aufderheide, Center for Social Media director, contact Clark Gregor, AU Media Relations, at 202-885-5935 or e-mail 

To arrange an interview with Sally Jo Fifer, president of ITVS, contact, Voleine Amilcar, at 415-356-8383 x 244 or e-mail 

Posted on June 11, 2007