The shift of Independent Lens from Tuesdays to Thursdays this season has created ratings and carriage woes for the indie-doc showcase and highlighted two often-conflicting objectives of programmers: winning larger audiences by serving highly valued loyal viewers, and getting more diverse and sometimes daring programming into the public TV lineup.
Independent journalists in public media are having an increasingly tough time earning a living as producers for public TV and radio, according to a survey commissioned by the Association of Independents in Radio and the Independent Television Service. Over the past three years, 66 percent of radio indies who responded to the survey reported worsening financial problems.
The survey by Market Trends Research, backed by CPB, drew responses from 206 indies who have created content for public TV, radio or affiliated websites in the past two years. The income outlook among radio indies, who made up 75 percent of survey respondents, is somewhat brighter than for those working in television, film and web production. Forty-one percent of TV and film indies said they expect to work with nonprofits and foundations as a source of future income, and nearly one-third see opportunities in education. Radio indies participating in the survey expressed optimism about their ties to local stations.
Usually the only speakers in the “public comment” period after an NPR Board meeting are several regional reps of stations, but they were joined Feb. 25 by Sue Schardt, executive director of the Association of Independents in Radio (AIR). Schardt spoke extemporaneously to the board and NPR execs about how public radio could address criticism that has undercut its case for continued federal aid. This is an edited transcript. I speak as someone who has 23 years of experience in the industry.
The host of Latino USA for all of its 17 years, Maria Hinojosa, is now its proprietor, too, along with producer Sean Collins, her partner in a new media company in the digital cloud. Futuro Media Group, announced this month, starts off highly virtual and will get moreso. Hinojosa records her reports in a soundproofed closet in Harlem. Collins, her e.p. for five years and a former producer of All Things Considered, works in his hometown of St. Louis.
Loni Ding, 78, a filmmaker who brought issues of Asian American identity to the surface, and to PBS, and helped win legislation backing independent producers, died Feb. 20 in a hospital in Oakland, Calif.
Few docs as substantial as The Principal Story, which airs on P.O.V. Sept. 15, are funded in full by a single angel, but this one was. The Wallace Foundation didn’t choose to cover the whole cost to make independent producers’ lives easier, though the grant did that.
Woodward A. (Woody) Wickham, 66, a strong supporter of independent documentary films and public media producers, died of cancer Jan. 18  at his home in Chicago. In more than a dozen years at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, 1990 to 2003, Wickham helped support such projects as Kartemquin Films’ documentary Hoop Dreams, the Creative Commons alternative to copyrights, and Dave Isay’s StoryCorps, for which Wickham was the founding board chair. With MacArthur’s money, Wickham was a consistent supporter of P.O.V. and Frontline, local media arts centers and Kartemquin, says Alyce Myatt, who worked with him at the foundation. Wickham also supported the foundation’s work in human rights, aiding the International Criminal Court, and media reform groups such as the Media Access Project.