Public TV was less visible at this year’s American Film Institute documentary festival. Yet several of the 10 films that had received financial support from public TV grant-makers or broadcast commitments from PBS stood out among the 53 documentaries in the lineup. One even took the top prize.
The mass shootings last year in Colorado, Wisconsin and Connecticut reawakened Americans to recurring tragedies of gun violence and rekindled a national debate about gun control — one that public radio and television have chronicled and analyzed through ongoing programs and the package of special broadcasts that aired on PBS last month.
After a season of bad press following PBS’s much-maligned 2012 decision to move its flagship independent documentary program POV from Tuesday nights to Thursdays, the show will move to Mondays for its 26th season, which premieres June 24. POV announced the lineup for its new season today. The program is also building off another recent round of good news: a $1 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation on Feb. 28. Its premiere episode will be Homegoings, a documentary about Harlem undertakers that was selected as part of the New York Museum of Modern Art’s 2013 Documentary Fortnight. The lineup, with 15 national broadcast premieres and two encore presentations, will also include the Oscar-nominated Palestinian film 5 Broken Cameras on Aug.
Wendy Levy, the director of arts consultancy group New Arts AXIS, called for documentary filmmakers to embrace big data tools as a permanent part of their storytelling process during the keynote address at the Media That Matters Conference, held Feb. 15 in Washington, D.C.
As a Masterpiece production competing against other miniseries, movies and specials, Great Expectations received Emmys for outstanding achievement in costume design (Annie Symons, Yvonne Duckett), art direction (David Roger, Paul Ghirardani, Jo Kornstein), main title design (Nic Benns, Rodi Kaya, Tom Browich) and cinematography (Florian Hoffmeister). In addition, the Masterpiece production Page Eight won an Emmy for original main title theme music (Paul Englishby). Other PBS winners included the Independent Lens production Have You Heard From Johannesburg, a seven-part series about the global anti-apartheid movement that received a juried award for exceptional merit in documentary filmmaking. Cited were Connie Field, producer; Lois Vossen, series senior producer; and Sally Jo Fifer, executive producer. Geoffrey Ward received the Emmy for nonfiction writing for scripting Ken Burns’s Prohibition: A Nation of Hypocrites.
An infusion of CPB funding is allowing the Independent Television Service to add more features to OVEE, the online engagement tool that ITVS calls “the world’s first fully functional social screening platform.”
The CPB Board of Directors approved a supplementary grant of $575,000 June 14 to the Independent Television Service for completion of its Online Video Engagement Experience (OVEE), a digital platform that allows moderated interactive online screenings of video content streamed through PBS.org. CPB had backed development of the technology in 2010 with $954,000. The additional funding will support development of technical capabilities to run OVEE on mobile devices and stream live events, such as debates and town-hall meetings — enhancements requested by all five OVEE pilot stations. CPB management presented the grant request to the board at its June 4 meeting, but approval was postponed after Chair Bruce Ramer questioned whether the corporation should take an ownership stake in innovative projects such as OVEE (Current, June 11). The board agreed to take more time to consider the grant and delayed the vote.