ITVS president and CEO Sally Jo Fifer applauds year-round Monday slot on PBS core schedule to help meet first-order mission of public broadcasting.
I’m pleased to report that the Independent Strategy Task Force has emerged from months of conversation to deliver a new 10 p.m. primetime slot on Monday nights for Independent Lens and POV. This is great news for our series filmmakers and audiences, but more importantly it affirms the partnership and mission that independents and public broadcasting steward together: amplifying diverse voices to strengthen our democracy.
We are grateful to every filmmaker, station, and viewer who spoke up to tell us why the two series needed a home on the PBS core schedule. And we are grateful to PBS for working hard with us to make it possible and to develop a new strategy for more independent work to reach Americans through a broadcast and online festival that will promote POV and Independent Lens. While significant work lies ahead to regain station carriage, we look forward to working hard to steer old and new audiences to Monday nights. And we’ll need your help.
Why is the partnership between public broadcasting and independents so important? In concept and in practice a public broadcast — with the full surround of press, festivals, transmedia strategies, and NGO and CBO partners that bring together communities to solve problems — will continue to stand as a powerful mechanism to focus, connect, and educate society. Will the value of a solo broadcast erode as viewers scatter to second screens? Certainly. Will a primetime slot mean as much in 10 years as it does today? Probably not — but it is essential now. We live in time when we must toggle between the present and the future. We need conventional and unconventional strategies to compete amid the asymmetry of monopolized media. We need every platform to get across our messages. And in this exalted Internet explosion, we need storytellers who create long and short-form documentaries and transmedia experiences that connect the dots and contextualize our world.
The bigger question is, do independents even need public institutions like public television and ITVS? The answer is yes, always, because neither the Internet nor commercial broadcast marketplaces is accountable to citizens. Private companies that sink or swim according to shareholder value can sometimes balance equally the business of making money and serving the public, but the common good is the first-order mission of public broadcasting. And when it isn’t, we stand to be corrected. You have, and we are the better for it. Starting in October, come watch Independent Lens at 10 p.m. on Monday nights and bring your friends.
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