Kerger announced a raft of diversity initiatives Tuesday during a virtual press conference at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour. Among them: partnering with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to give $5.5 million to Firelight Media, a non-profit founded by Black filmmakers Stanley Nelson and Marcia Smith, to fund fellowships and mentoring programs supporting filmmakers from underrepresented groups.
The CPB will also provide a $3 million grant to PBS Digital Studios for up to 15 new digital series featuring a diversity of content creators on platforms like YouTube, Facebook and TikTok. The National Science Foundation will provide a $2.5 million grant to PBS Digital Studios for creation of short form YouTube videos on science, technology, engineering and math with a focus on Black and Hispanic communicators.
PBS will require producers to outline their own diversity and inclusion plans for projects, setting goals and eventually explaining whether they were met. And PBS hired a new senior vice president of diversity and inclusion, Cecilia Loving.
When asked about PBS' current diversity figures, Kerger cited an area of the service's website that lists some numbers, including: 35% of its primetime schedule for 2021 was produced by BIPOC creators and 41% featured BIPOC talent. Among its staff, 40% identify as BIPOC—compared to 35% in 2016—and 28% of its managers.
Seeking diversity data with context
The open letter from Beyond Inclusion asked for different figures: the hours of PBS programming over the past 10 years created by BIPOC filmmakers vs. white people; the percentage of spending on PBS programs over the last 10 years which went to projects led by BIPOC filmmakers and a list of which production companies, among the top 25 organizations that produce the most programming for PBS, are led by BIPOC creators.
Lee noted that none of the initiatives announced by PBS Tuesday outlined specific diversity goals or provided details on how—or if—any of the data gathered from producers would be made public (Kerger said the data would likely show up in a more general report similar to the figures already posted on its website).