Jun 25, 2010

RFP seeks ideas for series to diversify PBS audience

The first RFP for the new CPB/PBS Diversity & Innovation Fund will lead to production of one or more 10-episode x 60-minute primetime weekly series that would help make public TV’s audience  younger (40-64) and more diverse than today. Proposals are due Sept. 15.

The grantmakers plan to choose several applicants in December to make pilots. After showing the pilots online, one or more of the projects will get production money. The RFP, posted this week at, says the programs could fit in several popular nonfiction genres but not drama, public affairs or children’s programming.

The RFP asks producers to plan for release on multiple platforms, such as public TV’s Digital Learning Library for schools. Publicizing the RFP at the AFI Silverdocs Festival today, PBS program chief John Wilson said part of a project could be purpose-built for another platform, but can’t sacrifice the objective of a broadcast series.

Production costs must be kept “sustainable”— $375,000 or less per hour, not counting promotion, outreach and new-media costs. 

Wilson and CPB's Joseph Tovares prompted a little scorn from a relatively young audience at Silverdocs when they said only printed proposals would be accepted. Wilson said they hadn't been able to arrange for online submission this time, but will be ready next time. This RFP will use one of the larger parts of the fund’s two-year $20 million allocation,  Tovares told Current. The funders also plan smaller RFPs for educational, gaming and digital projects.

The funders encouraged proposals that would interest viewers who fit “the Explorer archetype” that PBS uses to describe experience-seeking, curious, independent-minded viewers. More about Explorers here.

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