A guide to organizations bringing diversity to public media

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Hawaiian graffiti artists John Hina, left, and Estria Miyashiro create artwork during CAAMFest in March. The two are featured in the documentary Mele Murals. (Photo: Leanne Koh)

Looking for diverse content, producers, engagement ideas, staffing or avenues for bringing stories of underrepresented communities to public media? These 14 organizations stand ready to help, each tasked with goals that support diversity in public media content. Here’s a look at how each serves the public broadcasting system, their history and a preview of their upcoming projects.


Public TV stations and producers can turn to the CPB-funded National Minority Consortia (NMC), the five-member group that backs content by and about communities of color. Other organizations include Independent Television Service, which also receives CPB support, and filmmaker Stanley Nelson’s Firelight Media.

Center for Asian American Media

CAAM presents stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian-American experiences by funding, producing, distributing and exhibiting works in film, television and digital media. Its fellowship program develops Asian-American filmmakers, actors, programmers and executives. The organization also presents CAAMFest every March, a major international showcase for new Asian-American and Asian film, food and music programs.

Headquarters: San Francisco

Leadership: Stephen Gong, executive director

Contact: [email protected]

History: In 1980, Asian-American activists from around the country gathered at Berkeley, Calif., to discuss the creation of an organization to bring their community’s voices to public media. The National Asian American Telecommunications Association, CAAM’s forerunner, was founded later that year. CAAM is an NMC member.

DiversityButtonValue to the public broadcasting system? “We introduce and nurture new voices and new talents to public media, and we serve as a bridge between public media stations and Asian-American communities,” Gong said.

How can the system better take advantage of your group? CAAM can be “a key partner in reaching diverse Asian-American communities on a local and national level, as a trusted leader and voice in the public sphere,” Gong said. “Through our programs and outreach services, we can help stations serve their diverse communities.”

Upcoming projects? Two major series: Chinese Exclusion Act, a co-production with Steeplechase Films; and The Asian-Americans, a co-production with WETA. Both of these series will feature community outreach, education and engagement components. Also, “we’re working on a initiative with our NMC partners to develop content that will stimulate a national conversation about diversity and the future of America,” Gong said. “We continue to develop and refine a path for Asian-American media content from production, to festival launch, to community screenings, to social media marketing, to broadcast and educational use.”

Latino Public Broadcasting

LPB develops, produces, acquires and distributes public media content that gives voice to the diverse Latino community, which now represents 17 percent of the U.S. population. LPB also organizes screenings and community engagement events to promote and expand the support base for independent films into public television, and provides workshops and other support for independent producers.

Headquarters: Burbank, Calif.

Leadership: Sandie Viquez Pedlow, executive director

Contact: [email protected]

History: LPB was created in 1998 by actor and activist Edward James Olmos and filmmaker Marlene Dermer. LPB is an NMC member.

Value to the public broadcasting system? “Working with a talented community of Latino independent filmmakers, LPB brings to PBS and the stations authentic stories that provide a lens to the history, culture and arts of Latino Americans,” Pedlow said. “These programs provide a springboard for thoughtful discussion and interaction at the national and local level on all platforms, helping to bridge differences and providing for better understanding.”

How can the system better take advantage of your group? LPB works with stations for community engagement on-site, online and on social media, and interacts with English- and Spanish-language media to raise visibility for programs and related station activities. It also works with “an extensive community of filmmakers,” Pedlow said, and can recommend producers and directors for local station projects.

Upcoming projects? In August LPB premieres Drowning and Vámonos, two digital shorts by emerging Latino filmmakers that explore gender and bullying issues. Kingdom of Shadows, a co-presentation with POV, premieres on PBS in September, examining the U.S.–Mexico drug war. And in October, Willie Velasquez Empowering the People airs as part of PBS’s election programming. That film traces the history of the Latino vote through Velasquez, who registered 1 million new voters in the 1980s. “Many stations will be hosting screenings and panels,” Pedlow said. “We’re glad to provide stations with a screener and discussion guide for this important documentary.”

National Black Programming Consortium

AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange from the National Black Programming Consortium takes viewers to the steel drum world championships in Trinidad. (Photo: American Public Television)

AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange from the National Black Programming Consortium takes viewers to the steel drum world championships in Trinidad. (Photo: American Public Television)

NBPC develops, produces and distributes media by and about the black community, and mentors the creators of that content. It produces the public TV series AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange. NBPC also sponsors the 360 Incubator+Fund to help launch multipart, nonfiction broadcast projects, nonfiction and scripted web videos, and interactive or transmedia projects about the black experience.

Headquarters: Harlem, New York City

Leadership: Leslie Fields-Cruz, executive director

Contact: [email protected]

History: Founded in 1979 in Columbus, Ohio, by a group of African-American public television station producers, including Mable Haddock, NBPC’s first executive director. NBPC is an NMC member.

Value to the public broadcasting system? “NBPC is a source developing new and innovative content as well as new and talented producers,” Fields said. NBCP’s support and professional development for early-career and established producers have assisted a wide range of filmmakers including Stanley Nelson (The Murder of Emmet Till, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Freedom Riders), Thomas Allen Harris (Through a Lens Darkly, Digital Diaspora Family Reunion), Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster (American Promise), and Angela Tucker (Black Folk Don’t). The 360 Incubator+Fund, formerly NBPC360, “has seeded a new generation of producers,” Fields said, such as Garland McLaurin, Nosa Garrick, Damon Colquhoun and Sultan Sharrief, “who will continue the NBPC legacy of bringing new and innovative programs to the system.”

How can the system better take advantage of your group? NBPC wants to speak with stations, individuals and organizations about programs and services “that bring black content to their schedules, talent to their communities and audiences to broadcasts and streams,” Fields said, “whether for impact and engagement projects around primetime or web content, project development or program distribution.”

Upcoming projects? The next round of the 360 Incubator+Fund kicks off in September, followed by the Pitch Black Forum in late October — stations and producers interested in participating should contact NBPC “right away,” Fields said. Anticipating the 10th anniversary of the AfroPoP series in 2018, NBPC is looking to collaborate next year with stations, producers and other organizations in planning commemorations of the milestone.

Pacific Islanders in Communications

Sons of Halawa, a film by Pacific Islanders in Communications, profiles Pilipo Solatorio and his quest to keep Hawaiian cultural traditions alive. (Photo: American Public Television)

Sons of Halawa, a film by Pacific Islanders in Communications, profiles Pilipo Solatorio and his quest to keep Hawaiian cultural traditions alive. (Photo: American Public Television)

Known as PIC, the organization works to “support, advance and develop Pacific Island media content and talent that results in a deeper understanding of Pacific Island history, culture and contemporary challenges.”

Headquarters: Honolulu

Leadership: Leanne Ferrer, executive director

Contact: [email protected]

History: PIC was established in 1991 as a national nonprofit media arts organization. It is an NMC member.

Value to the public broadcasting system? “We amplify the collective voices of Pacific Islanders and help them to see that they are an integral part of the global tapestry,” Ferrer said. “Our Pacific Islander stories reach audiences worldwide through funding of documentary films, national broadcast on PBS stations, digital storytelling, training for filmmakers and educational screenings. PIC serves as a trusted guide through the complexities of creation and distribution, as well as an advocate for both content creators and underserved audiences.”

How can the system better take advantage of your group? “PIC is actively looking for PBS stations who are interested in partnering with us on community screenings outside of Hawaii,” said Cheryl Hirasa, director of program development and content strategy. “There are many diasporic Pacific Islanders communities on the continent, and many of our films transcend race by providing a universal story. If we can help stations connect with their communities by using our content, then that’s a win-win.”

Upcoming projects? PIC just released “The Places We Call Home,” a digital storytelling project produced in partnership with Cowbird, a participatory journalism and storytelling website. During the next few months, PIC will launch a digital shorts initiative for nonfiction and fiction videos and web series.

Vision Maker Media

VMM serves Native producers and Indian country in partnership with public television and radio. It works with Native producers to develop, produce and distribute educational programs, and supports training to increase the number of American Indians and Alaska Natives producing public media.

Headquarters: Lincoln, Neb.

Leadership: Shirley Sneve, executive director

Contact: [email protected]

History: Established as the Native American Public Broadcasting Consortium in 1976. Renamed Native American Public Telecommunications Inc. in 1995, and Vision Maker Media in 2013. VMM is an NMC member.

Value to the public broadcasting system? “Offering diverse programming to stations that resonates with their audiences,” Sneve said.

How can the system better take advantage of your group? “Stations should take advantage of our deep connections in Indian Country that can enhance their local programming efforts,” Sneve said. “Chances are that VMM knows people in your states who would bring value to engagement efforts.”

Upcoming projects? Vision Maker produced two new STEM–related programs: Navajo Math Circles and Medicine Woman. Also, Season 2 of the series The Medicine Game: Four Brothers, One Dream, will be available soon; it follows members of the Onondaga Nation working to beat the odds and play lacrosse for national powerhouse Syracuse University.

Independent Television Service

A Ballerina’s Tale from the Independent Television Service takes an intimate look at Misty Copeland, the first African American female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. (Photo: Oskar Landi)

A Ballerina’s Tale from the Independent Television Service takes an intimate look at Misty Copeland, the first African-American female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. (Photo: Oskar Landi)

ITVS funds, presents and promotes documentaries, dramas and web content from independent producers to bring stories of underrepresented communities to public television series such as Independent Lens, POV, American Masters, Frontline, American Experience, America ReFramed, Global Voices, among others. Of the films ITVS supported last year, 78 percent were made by filmmakers of color and half were by women. Its Diversity Development Fund provides up to $15,000 to producers of color to develop single documentary programs. Its cinematic digital platform OVEE allows viewers to watch streaming PBS video and chat with each other, panelists and filmmakers. And its national engagement network Indies Lens Pop-Up screens films in 75 cities.

Headquarters: San Francisco

Leadership: Sally Jo Fifer, president

Contact: [email protected]

History: In 1988 Congress mandated formation of a public television service that would give voice to underserved communities. ITVS, created by independent producers, the media arts communities and NGOs, funded its first programs in 1991.

Value to the public broadcasting system? “ITVS works at scale to help filmmakers tell stories no one else is telling — and to help those films reach and engage citizens across all platforms,” Fifer said. “In our role as an incubator of documentary films, ITVS serves as a partner throughout the filmmaking process, drawing upon our decades of creative, technical, marketing and engagement expertise.”

How can the system better take advantage of your group? The ITVS staff includes marketing experts, engagement strategists and station-relations staff who help local public media stations use its content to reach and engage diverse audiences. The station-relations team communicates regularly with programmers about upcoming content. The marketing team develops materials, social media language, promos and web clips. And the distribution team secures COVE licensing windows for ITVS films, allowing stations to embed them on their websites.

Upcoming projects? ITVS recently launched a Digital Open Call to support short-form doc series by diverse makers; of the 209 applications for 2016 funding, more than half were from filmmakers of color who have never before worked in public media. It also secured digital partnerships with more than a dozen journalism outlets, including the New York Times and The Atlantic magazine, to distribute original and re-versioned short-form films on the partners’ digital platforms. Also, Sentencing Children, a web video series produced in partnership with the Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, kicked off this month with coverage of juvenile sentencing laws; the release will culminate in an OVEE screening co-presented by Nashville Public Television.

Firelight Media

In Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, members protest in 1969. (Photo: Courtesy of Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch)

In The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, members protest in 1969. (Photo: Courtesy of Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch)

Firelight Media is a nonprofit dedicated to the development of independent, diverse filmmakers who tell stories about people, places, cultures and issues that are underrepresented in the mainstream media. Its Documentary Lab mentors emerging diverse filmmakers and their feature projects through one-on-one support, funding, professional development workshops and networking opportunities.

Headquarters: New York City

Leadership: Marcia Smith, president and co-founder; and Stanley Nelson, co-founder and lead mentor

Contact: [email protected]

History: Firelight was created in 2000 by filmmaker Nelson (The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution) and philanthropy executive Marcia Smith.

Value to the public broadcasting system? “Firelight’s greatest value is providing a wide range of compelling high-quality documentary films made by talented filmmakers from diverse backgrounds,” Nelson said. “These films in turn attract wider, younger, more diverse audiences.”

How can the system better take advantage of your group? Join Firelight’s mailing list at firelightmedia.tv to receive updates on programs and events. Also contact Firelight for partnership opportunities.

Upcoming projects? Firelight is best known for its long-form documentary work, but it is developing new initiatives with digital shorts and interactive media. It’s also preparing to launch a new fellowship program to train diverse producers from underrepresented backgrounds to lead and implement audience engagement campaigns for documentary films.


Although the public radio system doesn’t have an equivalent to TV’s National Minority Consortia, several independent media organizations play similar roles in supporting and creating diverse content in a variety of ways. Some create and distribute content for targeted communities, for example, while others provide services to minority-owned stations and training opportunities for producers. 

African-American Public Radio Consortium

The AAPRC’s programming service provides public radio with cultural and informational shows from African-American and ethnically diverse producers. It currently serves 90 stations with classic and contemporary jazz, soul, gospel, Latin, blues, world music and talk shows. Its portfolio includes 17 weekly shows as well as original music documentaries created by producers in the U.S. and the U.K.

Headquarters: Brooklyn, N.Y.

Leadership: Loretta Rucker, executive director

Contact: [email protected]

History: The organization began providing fundraising advice, programming training and consulting services to public radio stations of color in 1991, and officially formed as a consortium in 2000. It partnered with NPR from 2000–09 in creating national daily news/talk shows hosted by African-American talent.

Value to the public broadcasting system? “We engage in ongoing scouting, and networking with artists, scholars, journalists, pundits, activists, recording industry executives, business leaders and others who may be sources of new content,” Rucker said.

How can the system better take advantage of your group? AAPRC content is available to all non-commercial, non-religious radio stations. To audition shows, stations can download samples from Content Depot or contact the consortium for MP3 files.

Upcoming projects? This summer soul vocalist Will Downing signs on as host, joining weekly hosts including contemporary jazz artists Bob Baldwin and Marcus Johnson. Three new talk shows and two more music shows are scheduled to launch this fall. “As a relatively new operation, our catalog is still growing,” Rucker said.

Association of Independents in Radio

Creek Indian JD Colbert speaks to the crowd during a bike ride of historic Native spots in Tulsa, Okla., part of Localore's Finding America project at KOSU. (Photo: Shane Brown)

Creek Indian JD Colbert speaks to the crowd during a bike ride tracing historic Native spots in Tulsa, Okla., part of Localore’s Finding America project at KOSU. (Photo: Shane Brown)

AIR is a resource network for independent audio producers and a pipeline for new and diverse talent in public media. Its national initiative, Localore, is a multimedia production partnership with producers and stations that tests new models for more inclusive public media community engagement. Its New Voices scholarship program identifies and nurtures media-makers new to public media.

Headquarters: Boston

Leadership: Sue Schardt, executive director

Contact: [email protected]

History: AIR was founded in 1988 “by 10 independent radio producers at a kitchen table on Murray Street in New York City,” according to its website. The network has grown to more than 1,100 independent audio producers, multimedia journalists and public media programs, stations and networks across 30 countries.

Value to the public broadcasting system? “AIR’s mission is explicit: to recruit, train and deploy the most creative people in public media, on our way to making a media system that’s inclusive of all Americans,” Schardt said. “Our network of indie and station-based talent offers a clearinghouse for projects, programs and institutions that want to find people with the full spectrum of craft, resources, experiences and journalistic vision.”

How can the system better take advantage of your group? Schardt said independent and station-based talent can find work, mentors, training and resources through AIRmedia.org, particularly in the members-only AIRdaily section, which includes a job site, advice repository and community hub for public media. Projects, programs and institutions can find producers through the Talent Directory at AIRmedia.org; the Pitch Page directory for networks, programs and podcasts; and through partnerships with AIR that offer recruitment and training.

Upcoming projects? This summer, AIR and Localore partnered with Public Radio Program Directors, Greater Public, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters and the Independent Television Service to hire Edison Research to conduct a new benchmark study, Schardt said. The research will measure whether and how live events and community engagement efforts created by AIR teams bring more diverse audiences into contact with public media. Later this year AIR recruits its latest class of diverse talent for New Voices. And in 2017 AIR will release its impact findings from “Localore: Finding America.”

Koahnic Broadcasting Corporation

Antonia Gonzales (Navajo) is an anchor/producer for National Native News. (Photo: Koahnic Broadcasting Corporation)

Antonia Gonzales (Navajo) is an anchor/producer for National Native News. (Photo: Koahnic Broadcasting Corporation)

Koahnic — an Athabascan word meaning “live air” — offers a range of Native public radio programming. It operates KNBA in Anchorage, Alaska, the nation’s first Native station serving an urban area, as well as Native Voice One (NV1), a national Native radio program distribution service and producer. NV1 station affiliation includes 400 public radio stations and repeaters, including 55 Native stations in rural communities.

Headquarters: Anchorage, Alaska

Leadership: Jaclyn Sallee, KNBA president, and Carol Schatz, chief operating officer

Contact: [email protected]

History: KBC was founded in 1992 through a corporation created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, which was intended to settle tribal land claims and stimulate economic development statewide. New Mexico–based NV1 launched in 2006.

Value to the public broadcasting system? “Koahnic Broadcast Corporation is the nation’s primary producer and distributor of Native public radio programming,” Schatz said. Programs include Native America Calling, a weekday one-hour live moderated call-in program and National Native News, a weekday five-minute news feature. Another popular weekly show, Earthsongs, spotlights contemporary Native music.

How can the system better take advantage of your group? Schatz said that Koahnic’s NV1 service provides authentic Native programming for affiliate stations at a reasonable annual cost, as well as a 24-hour webstream for online listeners, and KNBA streams its signal at knba.org. Koahnic also offers opportunities for freelance journalists who file stories for National Native News, and for other producers who work collaboratively on special projects.

Upcoming projects? In the next year, Koahnic will debut a new internet stream targeting Natives age 35 and younger with a mix of music and stories. Koahnic also partnered with several foundations to produce the multiplatform Day 001: Voices of Recovery, an eight-part video and radio series celebrating stories of Alaskans overcoming alcohol addiction. And coming in November is the Earthsong documentary Iñupiaq Drum and Dance–A Cultural Renaissance featuring rural Alaska Natives celebrating the revival of ancient songs and dances that were suppressed in the 1900s.

Latino Public Radio Consortium

The LPRC fortifies more than 40 public radio stations serving Latino communities across the nation. Its services include compliance support, one-on-one station consultations, station and community engagement tools and a weekly e-newsletter.

Headquarters: Lake Mary, Fla.

Leadership: Magaly Rivera, executive director, and Ileana Rivera Santa, station services manager

Contact: [email protected] or  [email protected]

History: Today’s LPRC was incubated through the National Federation of Community Broadcasters beginning with a meeting of Latino leaders and allies in August 2007.

Value to the public broadcasting system? LPRC is “a uniform voice within and outside the public media system for Latino-serving stations and their Latino communities,” Rivera said. The organization advocates for Latino voices, services and perspectives “at every level of programming, production, distribution, leadership and management,” which includes supporting a “strong Latino-controlled public media,” she said.

How can the system better take advantage of your group? Join the consortium to access its wide range of resources, Rivera said, which include the Latino Summit, webinars and other training resources and access to partner resources.

Upcoming project? LPRC is working to develop a third Brown Paper Case Study highlighting stations that are bolstering Latino participation in public media through audience service, talent development, program production or management strategies. The consortium wants to hear from stations about that work, Rivera said.

National Federation of Community Broadcasters

NFCB, a membership organization of some 200 stations, advocates for and provides services to community broadcasters, an especially diverse group. NFCB also incubated organizations that serve communities of color, including the Latino Public Radio Consortium and Native Public Media.

Leadership: Sally Kane, chief executive officer

Contact: [email protected]

History: In 1975 the National Alternative Radio Konvention adopted a resolution to develop an organization representing community broadcasters. The initial mission of NFCB in 1978 was to develop training manuals for stations, help them obtain FCC licenses and facilitate program sharing. Tom Thomas and Terry Clifford set up NFCB’s initial headquarters in their Washington, D.C., apartment.

Value to the public broadcasting system? “We represent the most diverse constituency,” Kane said. “We provide direct services and advocate for rural, smaller urban and minority community stations. This has been the case for four decades, making NFCB the oldest and largest public media organization serving community stations.”

How can the system better take advantage of your group? “Visit our website for a general framework of what we offer,” Kane said. “We are always ready to take your call or answer your email. There are a number of services that are available to members only. NFCB is funded by membership dues, so joining the organization is the best way to gain full access to our services. We pride ourselves in providing customized service and we are small enough to be nimble and attentive.”

Upcoming project? Its next Community Media Conference takes place at the Downtown Denver Embassy Suites, July 16–19, 2017.

Native Public Media

NPM works directly with the 567 American Indian and Alaska Native Villages, and assists with broadcast licensing and opportunities to provide media across all platforms. It provides regulatory compliance intervention, legal services, digital literacy, youth media camps, network training and education, community engagement, resource development and capacity building. NPM currently focuses on FCC filings and the Tribal Telecom Conference, an annual gathering of American Indian and Alaskan Native leaders and representatives to advance digital opportunities for Indian Country.

Headquarters: Flagstaff, Ariz.

Leadership: Loris Taylor, president

Contact: [email protected]

History: NPM was developed in 2004 under the auspices of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, which served as its fiscal agent for funding from CPB. NPM became a separate nonprofit organization in 2011.

Value to the public broadcasting system? NPM, an organization by and for Native Americans, “works with local, national and international allies in carrying out its mission to promote engaged, healthy and independent Native communities through media access, control and ownership,” Taylor said.

How can the system better take advantage of your group? NPM is a national resource for public broadcasters in Native communities, an alliance of Native stations and Native media-makers, and it is well known throughout Indian Country as the central voice on communications and telecommunications.

Upcoming project? FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn will speak about broadcast diversity and why it matters during the Tribal Radio Summit July 19–21 at the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Phoenix. Clyburn will focus on new radio licensing for Native Americans.

Radio Bilingüe

Mario Gómez, a Radio Bilingüe volunteer who operates the board during the La Hora Mixteca program. (Photo: Radio Bilingüe)

Mario Gómez, a Radio Bilingüe volunteer who operates the board during the La Hora Mixteca program. (Photo: Radio Bilingüe)

Radio Bilingüe is a Latino public radio network and content producer for public broadcasting stations. It owns and operates 12 full-power stations in California and the Southwest, and has 65 affiliates nationwide. Among its productions is the news roundup Noticiero Latino, the only daily national Spanish-language news program in public media, and the weekday Línea Abierta (“Open Line”), the first and only live national Spanish-talk show in public media. The network also offers music and cultural programming, and productions promoting Latino community education, civic engagement, health and well-being.

Headquarters: Fresno, Calif.

Leadership: Hugo Morales, founder and executive director

Contact: [email protected]

History: Radio Bilingüe was founded as a nonprofit station in 1976 in California by volunteer farmworkers, activists, artists and teachers as La Voz que Rompío el Silencio (“The Voice that Broke the Silence”).

Value to the public broadcasting system? The network offers a 24/7 content stream to stations “seeking to serve the burgeoning Latino communities of their service areas,” Morales said. Línea Abierta and Edición Semanaria de Noticiero Latino are both available free to public radio stations through Radio Bilingüe, PRSS and Content Depot.

How can the system better take advantage of your group? “Stations seeking to include their local Latino community in the ‘public’ of their services can rely on Línea Abierta or Edición Semanaria as great additions to their schedules, joining the hundreds of stations in the system that have carried RB programming in whole or part through the decades,” Morales said.  Some stations carry Radio Bilingüe almost 24/7, while others use its content to reinforce the development of their own locally produced Latino programming, he said.

Upcoming project? The network is offering election coverage and analysis of presidential and key congressional and state races and ballot initiatives through Hacia el Voto 2016. A new national series, Hablando de la Raza (“Speaking of Race”) provides Latino perspectives on critical issues of race, racism, racial conflict and solutions. And several hour-long specials recorded, produced and aired during the recent Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., are available, with more coming soon, including concerts, forums and talks.

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