TCA 2021: PBS Focused on Greater Diversity on Both Sides of the Camera

(Image credit: PBS)

Paula Kerger, PBS president and CEO, shared about the network’s plans to attain a higher level of diversity on both sides of the camera during a TCA executive session. That includes programming such as Independent Lens special Ferguson Rises, about the Missouri town where a Black teen was killed by a white police officer in 2014, and POV special Fruits of Labor, told from the perspective of a Mexican-American teen. It also includes initiatives such as PBS giving to documentary producer Firelight Media to support Firelight Documentary Lab and other programs aimed at increasing the diversity of public media. 

“The P in PBS stands for Public,” said Kerger, voicing her goal of reaching “the whole of the American public” with meaningful content.  

Topical PBS programming also includes Frontline special American Reckoning, which shines a light on victims of racially motivated violence “for whom there still has been no justice,” said PBS. 

“We believe that every part of a story matters,” said Kerger--including who tells the story, and who’s story gets told.

Kerger also shared that Cecilia Loving has been named senior VP of diversity, equity and inclusion. She previously focused on diversity at the New York City fire department. PBS decided “we would benefit very much from someone who has deep expertise in this area,” said Kerger. 

General PBS programming news includes season two of All Creatures Great and Small and Sanditon airing soon. “It took some work but we’re looking forward to it coming back,” said Kerger of Sanditon.  

The American Masters documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It looks at the film/TV/stage star, and Ken Burns tackles a beloved boxer with the documentary Muhammed Ali. Ali is “a champion who became an inspiration to millions,” said Kerger. 

Documentary Generation 9/11 looks at children whose fathers died that tragic day as the 20th anniversary approaches. 

Cooking competition series The Great American Recipe debuts in summer 2022. 

For kids, there is Alma’s Way. Created by Sonia Manzano, who played Maria on Sesame Street, the series stars a 6-year-old Puerto Rican girl in the Bronx. Fred Rogers Productions produces Alma’s Way.

PBS tells “uniquely American stories of people, events and institutions,” said Kerger. 

The public broadcaster’s diversity efforts will be ongoing. “It’s a journey, and it’s one we’ll continue to be on,” said Kerger. 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the L.A. Times and New York magazine.