March [2012] brings major gifts for two pubTV shows

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Philanthropists in California and New York contributed separate gifts of $1 million to two public TV shows last month.

With her six-figure contribution to the Masterpiece Trust, Darlene Shiley of San Diego made the largest gift to date to the fund, established in January 2011. Shiley, one of the first donors to the trust, made a gift of $250,000 last year. Her $1 million contribution was made on behalf of her and her late husband Donald and will be split with KPBS in San Diego.

The Masterpiece Trust allows major donors to directly support the Masterpiece strand of British drama programs on PBS while designating part of the gift to their local station.

New York philanthropist Henry van Ameringen has been a longtime supporter of In The Life, the public TV newsmagazine focusing on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues. His $1 million gift celebrates the show’s 20th anniversary on the air, and goes to In The Life Media, the production company behind the show.

When In The Life began airing in 1992, it was a revelation, van Ameringen recalled in a March 23 column published by the Huffington Post. “The simple fact that there was a television program, airing on public television stations around the country, that represented LGBT people in such a genuine and accurate manner was stunning, and even more so that it had been produced by a tiny staff on a threadbare budget,” he wrote.

”[I]n the past 20 years, the stories that have been told have had a tremendous impact, creating the social change and momentum we now see toward full equality,” he wrote.

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