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.
The Peabody-winning segment aired on NPR’s Morning Edition and featured interviews that had been adapted as animated shorts for PBS’s POV. The award, one of nine presented for pubcasting programs this year, recognized the oral history project’s treatment of interviews with the relatives of 9/11 victims in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the 2001 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center. NPR received two additional trophies for its radio reporting. Judges cited “Arab Spring from Egypt to Libya” by foreign correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro for “exemplary coverage throughout the Middle East,” and “Native Foster Care: Lost Children, Shattered Families,” a three-part NPR News Investigation by Laura Sullivan and Amy Walters. POV received another Peabody for “My Perestroika,”a doc following five young Russians over several years after the collapse of communism.
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.
Cars burn in downtown Nashville. Police patrol Boise after massive power outages, widespread looting and near-riots. Our intrepid video correspondent, Kal, rides through San Francisco, taping a team of out-of-work deliverymen who steal as many bicycles as they can fit in their van. “Some might say these guys are taking the easy way out,” Kal gravely tells viewers. “But I’ve got a feeling that if this crisis continues, we’re going to see a lot more of this kind of crime.”
A leading advocate for independent producers and openness in the governance of public broadcasting, Laurence S. Hall died Feb. 21  after a recurrence of cancer, according to one of his sons, Ole Hall. He was 74. Hall was one of “the three Larrys” — the others being Lawrence Daressa and Lawrence Sapadin — who were among the leaders of the 1980s movement to secure a role for independent producers in public TV. If there was one person responsible for that “modest miracle of legislation,” Daressa said recently, it was Hall.
Last year was a good year for the Independent Television Service. ITVS had weathered its first 10 years as a funder and presenter of independent productions for public TV. It was feted with retrospectives at museums and film festivals across the country, which highlighted such fare as The Farmer’s Wife, La Ciudad, First Person Plural, The Devil Never Sleeps and Still Life with Animated Dogs. And it brought in a new executive director, Sally Jo Fifer. Having worked nine years as executive director of the nonprofit Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC), Fifer was uniquely qualified to steer the difficult course between stations and independents.
ITVS, the CPB-funded organization operating in the tricky middle-ground between independent filmmakers and public TV stations, has appointed a leader in the San Francisco indie community as its next chief executive. [She succeeded James Yee, who died in March 2001.]
Sally Jo Fifer, executive director of the Bay Area Video Coalition since 1992, will join the Independent Television Service as its top executive in August. BAVC grew explosively under her leadership — through partnerships with Silicon Valley companies during the soaring tech boom and through job-training contracts with federal, state and local government agencies. The ITVS Board sought an executive with entrepreneurial skills and a proven ability to “raise money and think creatively,” says Mark Lloyd, chairman of ITVS and president of the Civil Rights Forum on Communications Policy. “Sally’s experience with the Bay Area Video Coalition certainly suggests that she has those qualities.”
James T. Yee, former executive director of the Independent Television Service (ITVS) died March 17 in Piedmont, Calif., after an 18-month battle with cancer. He was 53. The former producer and community organizer headed ITVS for seven of its 10 years, 1994-2000. He fought off numerous budget cuts for the CPB-funded service, while building connections between public TV and his constituency of independent producers. Before joining ITVS, Yee co-founded and served as first executive director of the National Asian American Telecommunications Association, helping to raise the profile of Asian-Americans in TV and film.
Independent Television Service (ITVS) announced this week its first round of 25 grants to independent TV producers. The projects will bring to the tube an array of programs about American minorities, ethnic and otherwise, that are seldom featured on television — Indian activists, a Black Panther, elderly couples, gay people in the South and Asian immigrants. Included among the productions will be animated shorts, comedies and historical programs about Hawaii, Margaret Sanger’s work in birth control and the Columbus voyage. (A full list, with ITVS’ descriptions, follows this article.)
The announcement is a landmark in a long struggle for public TV producers outside of stations to gain an official place in program funding decisions. CPB bankrolled the service under a 1988 congressional mandate but long negotiations between it and the indies delayed a final contract signing until last summer (story at right).