WHY IT’S IMPORTANT:
Independent Lens and POV are in danger. And they are the two series that most consistently showcase diverse makers, diverse voices, and underrepresented perspectives on public TV. These series brought us films on how to stop sex trafficking in American cities, the challenges rural and homeless high schoolers face, the inside story of Native government, the history of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle, and the untold story of Muhammad Ali’s struggle with the draft. Films shown on these series have resulted in legislation on women combat veterans’ rights, changes in how social workers and health care providers do their jobs, and have spurred community conversations about race. These series show us films that change lives. Many were made by members of underrepresented communities, and by women. They are about more than ratings; they’re about engaging people in a democracy.
PBS is considering moving Independent Lens and POV off their primetime spot on primary stations. That move would weaken station support, make it much harder to find these programs, and threaten their very existence.
Broadcasting is still how the majority of Americans get their television, and that is even more true for underrepresented groups, such as African-Americans. As well, broadcasting is the gateway to other distribution media, such as DVD and streaming. In fact, Independent Lens and POV have been leaders in innovating distribution on other platforms, showing the rest of public TV what’s possible when you build from broadcast.
Independent storytelling by and about underrepresented voices in American media is a core part of public television. Sharing diverse perspectives isn’t just what sets public media apart, it’s what PBS stations are mandated to do as part of their commitment to serve communities.
PBS must carry these programs in primetime on primary stations and promote them, and in fact should celebrate them. Independent Lens and POV regularly showcase the best of public TV—diverse, distinctive, innovative, artful, and engaged. This is why, in a sea of media choices, we have public broadcasting.