Mar 19, 2012

Writers Guild of America, East, voices support for "Independent Lens" petition

The Writers Guild of America, East, is urging its 4,000 members to sign Kartemquin Film's online open letter to PBS protesting the network's move of indie showcases Independent Lens and P.O.V. from their longtime Tuesday timeslots to Thursday nights (Current, March 12). In an email to its members, WGAE President Michael Winship, senior writer on Moyers & Company, said, "It is imperative that we all support high quality public affairs programming and give it the opportunity to reach the widest audience possible."

"PBS’s decision to move these two programs from their long-held primetime slots is a disservice to viewers and undercuts a critical part of public television’s mission by diminishing the independent voices essential to diversity and democracy," he wrote. "That is why we urge everyone to sign the petition.”

American Graduate launches revamped website

The website for CPB's American Graduate initiative relaunched today (March 19) with a new research center, video from pubstations around the country, and connections to more than 600 local partners. The research center includes indices for all 50 states and information on how dropout data is being used to inform and drive action. There are also full-length pubmedia programs and specials focused on the crisis, along with local content such as student stories and teacher town hall meetings and highlights from upcoming broadcast premieres.

Concern over "Independent Lens" shift to Thursdays grows

Current's March 12 story on the ratings and carriage drop for Independent Lens, and larger issues associated with programming diverse content, is getting wider attention. The New York Times followed up in an article posted Sunday (March 18). It noted that as of that afternoon, 65 indie producers, including Bill Moyers, Stanley Nelson (screenwriter, director of Freedom Riders) and Alex Gibney (producer, director and a writer of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room), had signed Kartemquin Films' online letter to PBS protesting the scheduling change. (By Monday, that had grown to more than 100.)

Also, the International Documentary Association is encouraging producers to sign Kartemquin's letter.

And Patricia Aufderheide, director of the Center for Social Media at American University, posted an online commentary, "Antiques or Independents? Why it Matters Where PBS Puts Independent Lens and POV" on Saturday (March 17). Aufderheide writes that PBS's move of the programs "shows an imbalanced understanding of its priorities. The most dangerous part of PBS’s decision is its demonstration that PBS’s leaders don’t recognize the need to invest in core-to-mission programming. That puts not only the endangered programs but the service itself at risk." (Disclosure: American University is also home to Current.)