Submission Guidelines and Proposal Process
Commitment to Review
We at PBS are committed to reviewing every proposal submitted for our consideration and want to make this process as simple as possible.
Please note that PBS is a membership organization that provides national programming, distribution, and technical services to our member stations. We do not produce the programs you see on our air. We can only work with experienced producers who are capable of managing all aspects of a project's development and production.
It is also important to note that the PBS schedule is determined 6-12 months in advance, so please keep this in mind when submitting programs that are timely in nature.
Steps for Submitting a Proposal
Step 1: Your proposal materials must be accompanied by a signed proposal release form and an informational summary sheet. PBS cannot review a proposal until these forms are on file.
Call (703) 739-5306 to request these forms
If you are submitting multiple proposals, please include a signed release form and submission summary for each project.
Step 2: Assemble your materials, sending all relevant information about each project. The following elements are expected:
Project Proposal/Incomplete Program
- Synopsis - Briefly outline the subject and story of the program or the larger context out of which the story evolved.
- Treatment - Clearly communicate how the television program will unfold from beginning to end. Include details on story structure, theme, style, format, voice, and point-of-view.
- Episodic Descriptions - If the project is a series, summarize the content of each planned episode.
- Project Timetable - Provide a schedule of all phases of production.
- Interactive Elements - If applicable, explain how you plan to enhance your project through a companion website, video-on-demand, or podcasting. Discuss specific elements on the proposed site and provide information on the web production team and budget. For guidelines on web development, please consult PBS' Web Production Manual.
- Budget - Include an itemized list of project costs, i.e., staff salaries, talent, post-production expenses, outreach, insurance, etc.
- Funders - Include an itemized list of any funds and in-kind support raised to date, as well as a list of those funders you are planning to contact.
- Key Personnel - Provide detailed biographies or resume information of the key project staff, i.e., producer, director, writer, cinematographer, editor, as well as experts, consultants, and talent.
- Business Plan - Explain the current status of the project; discuss your plans for completing it; identify potential funding resources; and indicate the approach being taken to secure funding.
- Sample Work - If possible, include samples of previous work that best exemplify your production ability and are relevant in style and subject to the current project.
- Educational Materials - If you are submitting a proposal for a children's program, the materials offered to PBS KIDS should reflect solid, age-appropriate educational goals, which incorporate the work of educational advisors and/or research to support the program's specific objectives. Program proposals should include plans describing how the educational and entertainment value of the program content will be extended through online, outreach, and print activities.
- A DVD copy of the program. DVDs must be in the NTSC format for American players. Make sure that your DVD plays in a consumer DVD player & not solely in laptops or desktop computers. We do not accept PAL DVDs or Blu-ray discs.
- Detailed funding information.
- Indication of rights available.
- Interactive elements.
- List of any problematic content, i.e., language, nudity, violence, etc.
- Any relevant information that will assist us in our review.
Step 3: Prepare your materials for mailing. We only accept submissions by mail or fax. We do not accept proposals by e-mail or phone.
You can mail your submission to the following:
PBS General Audience Programming
2100 Crystal Drive
Arlington, VA 22202
Vice President, Children’s Programming
2100 Crystal Drive
Arlington, VA 22202
Fax: (703) 739-7506
Note: Producers wishing to submit their proposal to a continuing series, such as Frontline or American Experience, please see Continuing Series and Anthologies. PBS does not forward submissions to existing series.
Step 4: Proposals are evaluated on an ongoing basis. They are judged on many criteria, including (but not confined to) the quality of the proposal or completed work, the credentials of the production team, the needs of the schedule, and the financial request to PBS. All projects for consideration will fall within the process that is described below. Projects that are unique and timely in nature will receive immediate attention, but PBS will determine, in its sole discretion, which programs and proposals fall into this category.
The submission process begins with an initial review by our program development team. Because the number of proposals we receive varies greatly, we do not have a standard time-frame in place for a response. We are committed, however, to contacting producers about their proposed projects as quickly as possible, usually within 4-6 weeks.
Following the initial review, if a program meets our standards and mission, then it is forwarded to a cross-disciplinary team for consideration. This group then discusses the recommended titles, identifying any outstanding questions and/or materials, and determines which projects should move forward for broadcast and/or funding. Producers are notified shortly thereafter.
During the commissioning round meetings, programs and proposals are approved for broadcast and/or funding, and all final greenlighting decisions are made. Producers are notified shortly thereafter.
We regret that we cannot offer detailed feedback on every project received.
PBS is not obligated to return proposal submissions and PBS is not responsible for lost or damaged materials. Please retain copies of all submitted items as they will be recycled or discarded upon completion of review.
Pitching to PBS KIDS
Download this PDF to review all producer guidelines for programs and internet content designed solely for children:
PBS KIDS Producer Guidelines (104.4 KB)
Updated: December 2016