A friend recently commented that we are in a golden age of documentary filmmaking. He named a few popular titles, and asked if I was worried about what this stiff competition meant for public television. I chuckled. He didn’t; he was serious.
Moments like this remind me that, while public broadcasters excel at storytelling, we sometimes forget to tell our story. So, I took the opportunity to share public television’s unique approach to documentary filmmaking…and why it matters.
PBS provides (online, if you’re interested) aspiring producers with an extensive review of the editorial standards that guide our programming. It details the principles to which filmmakers must rigorously adhere – independence, accuracy, fairness, transparency, inclusiveness, and accountability – and provides some blunt reminders of our core values (e.g. “PBS treats the public as citizens rather than consumers.”). This document is just the beginning of a long process that culminates in the shows you see on OPT, ensuring that content creators never lose sight of our purpose: to serve the public interest and preserve the public’s trust.
There is a lot of entertaining programming available from many different sources, to be sure. But, when you peek behind the curtain, they’re not all created equally. As we each navigate this “golden age of documentaries”, I find great comfort in the high bar that PBS has set for filmmakers. Thank you for supporting storytelling that not only entertains and inspires…but also demonstrates the deepest respect for the viewer, the subject, and the truth.