ARLINGTON, VA; August 10, 2021—  PBS presents its virtual summer Press Tour with new programming and initiatives on August 10, 11 & 12. Please see below for a summary of announcements made by PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger.
PBS and CPB will award $5.5 million over the course of three years to Firelight Media, the non-profit filmmaking company founded by Stanley Nelson and Marcia Smith. The grant will support:
  • The Firelight Documentary Lab— Firelight Media’s flagship 18-month mentoring program which supports filmmakers from a project’s conception through its completion— will expand the number of filmmakers in each cohort.
  • Groundwork Regional Labs will serve 40 early career filmmakers in partnership with local stations.
  • Digital short films will be commissioned from Documentary Lab and Groundwork fellows or alumni and other regional BIPOC filmmakers for the PBS system.

Updated producing criteria will roll out across all PBS platforms, including PBS General Audience Programming, PBS Digital Studios and PBS KIDS. Reporting and accountability are essential to advancing PBS’s mission to serve and represent all communities.

As such, PBS will require producers to provide their own diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) plan as a deliverable at the proposal stage and for all new agreements, series renewals and direct to PBS programs.

With support from The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), PBS Digital Studios will establish three Regional Digital Centers of Innovation to build its digital capacity and create a new pipeline of multi-platform content. Each regional center will partner with up to three PBS member stations that are located in geographically diverse markets across the country, resulting in up to 15 new digital series coming to its various digital platforms over the next two years. The regional centers will exclusively focus on content that elevates the voices of diverse content creators both in front of and behind the camera. The first shows under the initiative will begin rolling out on YouTube and, in some cases, Facebook, TikTok and IGTV, in the spring of 2022.
PBS Digital Studios announced today that PBS TERRA, its science-themed hub on YouTube, will launch an ambitious new slate of STEM content with support from the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, grant 2120006.Aligned with the organization’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, the $2.5 million grant will support a two-pronged PBS initiative to create STEM-related, short-form videos and conduct follow-up research to better understand how and why these videos attract underrepresented groups.

Cecilia Loving will join the organization as the Senior Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). Reporting directly to President and CEO Paula Kerger, Loving will develop organizational strategy, provide ongoing advice and counsel, and cultivate future partnerships for PBS.As an integral member of PBS’s senior leadership team, Loving will identify  opportunities to build on PBS’s internal commitment to DEI and collaborate across departments to evaluate current business practices. She will also work with the public television system to support stations’ ongoing efforts around DEI.

THE GREAT AMERICAN RECIPE is an uplifting cooking competition that celebrates the multiculturalism that makes American food unique and iconic. Hosted by Alejandra Ramos, the new eight-part series will give talented home cooks from different regions of the country the opportunity to showcase their beloved signature dishes and compete to win the national search for “The Great American Recipe.” Judges Leah Cohen, Tiffany Derry and Graham Elliot will bring their professional insights and deep culinary knowledge to encourage and support the contestants along the way. The series premieres in summer 2022 on PBS, PBS.org and the PBS Video app.

American Masters Explores the Life and Impact of Visionary Choreographer and Dancer Alvin Ailey in New Documentary on January 11

Features previously unheard audio of Ailey and new interviews with Judith Jamison, Bill T. Jones, Carmen de Lavallade, Rennie Harris and others 

AMERICAN MASTERS “Ailey” is a portrait of the legendary choreographer Alvin Ailey (1931-1989), a trailblazing pioneer who founded his influential studio Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958 at age 27. The documentary traces the full contours of this brilliant and enigmatic man whose search for the truth in movement resulted in enduring choreography that centers on the Black American experience with inimitable grace and power. Told through the choreographer’s own words and featuring evocative archival footage and interviews with those close to him, director Jamila Wignot weaves together a resonant biography that connects Ailey’s past to our present with an intimate glimpse into the Ailey studios today, following innovative hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris as he conceives a new dance, “Lazarus,” inspired by Ailey’s life. Opening the series’ 36th season, AMERICAN MASTERS “Ailey” premieres nationwide Tuesday, January 11, 2022, at 9:00 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/ailey and the PBS Video app.
The WNET Group’s Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning series NATURE celebrates its 40th anniversary with new episodes Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. beginning October 20 on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/nature and the PBS Video app. Season 40 premieres with “My Garden of a Thousand Bees,” which follows wildlife cameraman Martin Dohrn, who filmed all the bees he could find in his tiny urban garden in Bristol, England, during the COVID-19 lockdown. By the end of the summer, Dohrn saw more than 60 species of bees and unlocked new knowledge about the diversity of personalities in this insect family.

ALMA’S WAY, New PBS KIDS Series from Fred Rogers Productions, Created by Beloved Children’s TV Icon Sonia Manzano, Premieres October 4

Set in the Bronx, Animated Show Helps Kids Recognize Their Own Power to Think Things Through Original Theme Song Written and Produced By Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bill Sherman 

PBS KIDS announced ALMA’S WAY, a new animated series from Fred Rogers Productions will premiere on October 4, 2021. The series is created by Sonia Manzano, beloved by generations as “Maria” on SESAME STREET, who broke new ground as one of the first Latino characters on national TV.

Inspired by Manzano’s own childhood, ALMA’S WAY centers on 6-year-old Alma Rivera, a proud, confident Puerto Rican girl who lives in the Bronx with her family among a diverse group of close-knit friends and community members. Infused with Manzano’s humor and grounded in a social and emotional curriculum, the series will give children ages 4-6 the tools to find their own answers, express what they think and feel, and recognize and respect the unique perspective of others.

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Valerie Milano is the well-connected Senior Editor and TV Critic at The Hollywood Times, a showbiz/promotions aggregate mainly for insiders. She has written for Communications Daily in DC, Discover Hollywood, Hollywood Today, Television International, and Video Age International in NYC. Valerie works closely with GLSEN, GLAAD, Human Rights Campaign (Fed Club Council Member), LAMBDA Legal, NCLR, and Outfest. She is also a member of the LA Press Club. She is a lay minister and parishioner of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Hollywood. Milano loves meeting people and does so in her getaway home in Palm Springs as a member of the Palm Springs Museum, Palm Springs Center and DAP Health (Partners for Life member). For years Valerie Milano had volunteered as a board member and one of the chief organizers for the Television Critics Association’s press tours. The tours take place twice a year in Beverly Hills/Pasadena.