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PBS Outlines New Diversity Initiatives

PBS
(Image credit: PBS)

ARLINGTON, Va.—As part of its virtual winter Press Tour announcements of new programming, PBS has outlined some notable diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, including a long-term initiative to support diverse voices in public media and a $3.6 million three year commitment to support the work of mid-career, diverse creators.

In making the announcements, PBS noted that during the 2021 season, over 50 percent of PBS’s primetime schedule included diverse on-screen talent and/or addressed specific subject matter and that it is committed to building on this foundation.

As part of a new partnership with Firelight Media, the non-profit filmmaking organization founded by Stanley Nelson and Marcia Smith, PBS is committing $3.6 million over the course of three years to support mid-career nonfiction filmmakers through the William Greaves Fund. The Fund is designed to address the structural challenges many filmmakers face after producing their first films, so that they can remain in the field and continue to create vital stories focused on underrepresented people and topics, PBS said. 

Within the Greaves Fund, Firelight Media and PBS will hold a joint open call for filmmakers to submit projects for potential funding by PBS. 

“This funding from PBS will help us expand our programs serving underrepresented documentary filmmakers and support their integration in the public media system, connecting filmmakers with stations and mentoring them at every level,” said Marcia Smith, president, Firelight Media. “We are grateful for the support from PBS to expand and diversify this pipeline of documentary filmmakers for public media.”  

Longer term, PBS will be using a grant from Anne Ray Foundation to diversify the voices and perspectives in public media and to speed up the transformation of public media’s producing ecosystem to include more diverse perspectives in key production roles. 

As part of that effort, PBS said it will establish a mentorship program for early-career filmmakers and will create a year-long fellowship program that will embed promising filmmakers and rising executives into existing productions. This will help them gain the experience necessary to advance their careers and accelerate changes in the producing ecosystem by bringing more voices into the production process. 

PBS also said that it will work with an external consultant to evaluate the impact of these initiatives and identify key issues that can help their broader efforts to elevate diverse voices and perspectives across public media. 

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.