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Cable Nets, Streaming Services Ring The School Bell For Documentaries

Reminiscent of NCTA’s former Cable In The Classroom program, Netflix and National Geographic launched initiatives earlier this month that provide free access of their respective documentaries to schools and communities.

 National Geographic is making its recent documentary Gender Revolution: A Journey With Katie Couric available for any high school, college, university or nonprofit to sign up and host a free screening and discussion. Along with a DVD of the special, which examines the hot button issue of gender identity, Nat Geo is also supporting its “The Gender Revolution Tour” with a copy of National Geographic Magazine’s January issue devoted exclusively to the topic as well as an educator’s guide to help better guide a discussion about gender, according to Nat Geo CEO Courteney Monroe. She added that the company has already received requests from more than 100 organizations to host screenings.

 “We are interested in continuing the conversation (beyond the documentary airing),” Monroe said. “The more that we can shed a light on the issues and facts around gender, I think the better we can serve all of our communities.”

Netflix is also providing educational institutions an opportunity to watch and discuss its critically-acclaimed documentary 13th from producer Ava DuVernay. The film, which explores the link between slavery and the modern-day prison system, has received interest from elementary schools and universities to screen the provocative film, according to Netflix officials.

 “We have been overwhelmed and inspired by the response to 13TH from people of all ages,” said Lisa Nishimura, Netflix VP of Original Documentary Programming in a statement. “Communities across the country are feeling the full weight of this particularly divisive moment in time. And, when some are capitalizing on this fear, we are especially inspired by the next generation, who are able to acknowledge the complex system they have inherited while simultaneously vowing to change it. Like DuVernay, they understand that we must come face to face with our past before we can fix our future.”

 For nearly 20 years the NCTA’s Cable In The Classroom program served as a liaison between content providers and schools to provide quality, cable-produced shows and documentaries as learning tools for students and educators looking to enhance the educational process. The NCTA ended the program in 2014, but it’s encouraging to see that Nat Geo and Netflix,  as well as other content distributors, have begun to pick up Cable In the Classroom’s mantle on their own to show that today’s television landscape isn’t just made up of entertainment fluff.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.