Indie Caucus: Our Open Letter to WETA

The following is an open letter to WETA from the Indie Caucus:

February 17, 2014

Dear WETA:

We are writing in support of Dawn Porter’s letter to Jeff Bieber and to WETA regarding the programming of her film Spies of Mississippi and the rest of the films that several series offer for Black History month. It is frankly disturbing to note the spate of excellent and important films that are being displaced out of your prime time schedule and replaced with re-runs and Antiques Roadshow.

Running these programs in timeslots other than the ones set for the national series makes it difficult, if not impossible, to build effective civic engagement/outreach campaigns that bring an audience to a program. We are not unsophisticated about the nature of PBS and its relation to the local stations. However, many stations find a way to air the programs in the series slot and we believe that WETA also should be able to do this.

The treatment of P.O.V. and Independent Lens on your station is of particular concern to us for the reasons Dawn outlines very clearly in her letter. Those two multi-award winning series regularly promote the diversity of people portrayed, the program makers, and the issues addressed more than any other strand in the PBS system. In our nation’s capital, with its diverse population, we believe it is in the interest of all of us who care about public media that the issues Dawn raises about your programming be addressed.

Sincerely,

The Indie Caucus.

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The Indie Caucus is an informal, national, independent group of indie filmmakers who believe in public media and is dedicated to strengthening our collective voice both within and outside of the PBS system. Our founding members are:
Gordon Quinn, Founder and Artistic Director, Kartemquin Films
Paco de Onis, Producer/Partner, Skylight Pictures
Pamela Yates, Director/Partner, Skylight Pictures
Julia Reichert, Co-Founder, New Day Films
Brad Lichtenstein, President, 371 Productions
Bernardo Ruiz, Director/Producer, Quiet Pictures
Carlos Sandoval, Director/Producer, Camino Bluff Productions, Inc
Tim Horsburgh, Director of Communications and Distribution, Kartemquin Films
Johanna Hamilton, Director, Maximum Pictures
Dawn Porter, Director/Producer Trilogy Films
Byron Hurt, Director/Producer, God Bless the Child Productions, LLC
Steven Bognar, Producer, CMP.

In 2012 a movement of filmmakers and indie public media supporters noted a threat to P.O.V. and Independent Lens and joined in the successful PBS Needs Indies campaign. The Indie Caucus stems from this movement and has many of the same original goals, recognizing that independent documentary programs showcased on PBS showcase underrepresented viewpoints, serve under-served audiences, and offer innovative strategies for making connections with Americans in ways that help them be more active and productive members of society.

The response to Dawn Porter's letter from FAIR, Huffington Post, Shadow & Act / IndieWIRE, and on WETA's own Facebook page, shows again how public opinion is strongly in favor of supporting these programs.

We encourage all independent filmmakers and fans of public media to join us as signatories by emailing us at Indiecaucas@gmail.com, posting on our Facebook page, or tweeting #IndieCaucus to us on Twitter.