Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

PBS Gets the Jitters: Rumble or Earthquake in LA?

The PBS system has championed the documentary for forty years.

PBS factual strands and slots have provided opportunities for hundreds of thousands of professionals from across the television value chain and in dozens of countries.  

Coming on top of a decline in viewing, an aging audience and the loss of corporate sponsors, the system is absorbing a serious, new blow:

  • Last week, KCET Los Angeles announced that it is withdrawing from the system, leaving the #2 U.S. market without a PBS affiliate
  • Current newspaper reports on PBS’s fears that the loss of distribution in LA “could bring down the entire public television system”
  • (Current is an indispensible guide to U.S. public TV)
  • Flagship stations WNET New York and WGBH Boston are also struggling with budget cuts
  • WNET is reeling from a disastrous decision to compete with the BBC by launching and soon canceling the daily current affairs programWorldfocus

In coming weeks, we’ll check on the health of PBS and its leading Factual strands, beginning with longest-serving of them all, Nature

“Diminishing / Cheaper”

LA Times critic Robert Lloyd sees a bleak future for a public TV station that lacks premium PBS programs.

  • “One can easily imagine, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor, a vicious circle of diminishing returns, in which cheaper programming leads to fewer pledges, which in turn leads to even cheaper programming, which leads to fewer pledges.”

And that “diminishing/cheaper” message is all bad news for the sizeable factual television community that relies on PBS to showcase its work and help pay the bills. 

Also Noteworthy


Speaking Engagements

Sheffield Doc / Fest
What Do U.S. Broadcasters Want?
How Much Do They Pay? Who? When?
Alex Graham, Wall-to-Wall Productions
Tom Koch, PBS International
Dawn Porter, AETN
Lisa Heller, HBO Documentaries
Moderator: Peter Hamilton,
Saturday, 06 November, 10:00AM


World Congress of Science and Factual Producers
Tuesday, 30 November, 2:00PM, Dresden, Germany
Panel: Profiles of U.S. Science & History Commissioners
Details soon


Also Coming Up

RealScreen Summit
January 31 – February 3 2011, Washington DC
Australian International Documentary Conference
1 – 4 March 2011, Adelaide, Australia
Documentary Edge
25 – 27 February 2011, Auckland, NZ
Watch for details