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.

New leader Susan Howarth arrives in Tampa

The new head of WEDU in Tampa, Fla., wants to focus on creating more local online programming, reports Tampa Bay Online. Susan Howarth, who helped launch the video-centric while president of Cincinnati's pubTV station (Current, Feb. 19, 2008), has 35 years experience at seven public television stations. She has "lots of ideas but I didn't come down here with any preconceived notions," Howarth noted. Former station President Dick Lobo, who announced his retirement in late 2009, has agreed to stay on during the transition.

Visit his headlines blog, get Baltimore news, and be sure to sing along

WYPR’s local Morning Edition host Nathan Sterner in Baltimore (Balmer, to you natives) might be the only pubcaster out there with a theme song for his headlines blog. He's run it a few times on the air to promote the blog, where he links to station segments as well as stories from other local media. Baltimore filmmaker Chris LaMartina composed the song and quite deftly rhymed "Sterner" with "back burner."