Press Release: David Fanning to Receive Lifetime Achievement Emmy

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences
to Honor David Fanning, Founder and Executive Producer of FRONTLINE, with Lifetime Achievement Award

David Fanning, executive producer of the multiple Emmy® Award winning series FRONTLINE, will receive the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) at the 34th Annual News and Documentary Emmy® Awards.

The award will be presented on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, located in the Time Warner Center in New York City.

“David Fanning has guided FRONTLINE to the pinnacle of public affairs television,” said Malachy Wienges, Chairman of NATAS. “Working with some of the most talented journalists and producers in the business, FRONTLINE combines good reporting with good filmmaking that over several decades has engaged the television audience in many of the critical issues of our time. Mr. Fanning has received numerous duPont and Peabody Awards in addition to 57 Emmy® Awards. It is the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ great pleasure to recognize David Fanning’s many achievements by granting him our Lifetime Achievement Award.”

“FRONTLINE is among the most distinguished public affairs documentary series in television history,” said David Winn, Director, News & Documentary Emmy® Awards. “Executive Producer David Fanning has served as its guiding hand since the show’s debut in 1983. Under his leadership, FRONTLINE has produced an astonishing body of work—over 530 films—and maintained a 30-year commitment to serious reporting on important topics. We are pleased to honor David Fanning for his remarkable career, and for FRONTLINE’s decades-long commitment to journalistic excellence, integrity, and independence.”

David Fanning

David Fanning is the founder of FRONTLINE and has been executive producer of the series since its first season in 1983.

Fanning began his filmmaking career as a young journalist in South Africa at a time when the government banned television for being too subversive. His first films, Amabandla AmaAfrika (1970) and The Church and Apartheid (1972), broadcast on BBC-TV, dealt with race, politics and religion in his troubled homeland. He came to the U.S. in 1973 and began producing and directing local and national documentaries for KOCE, a public television station in California. His film Deep South, Deep North (1974) about race in America 20 years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown decision, was a PBS/BBC co-production and the first in a long succession of collaborations he created between U.S. and European television.

In 1977, Fanning came to WGBH Boston to start the international documentary series WORLD. As executive producer, he produced and presented more than 50 films for PBS in five years. With director Antony Thomas, Fanning produced and co-wrote Death of a Princess (1980). The film ignited a political firestorm and threatened diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and the US and the UK. In spite of pressures from Washington and oil companies, the film was broadcast to critical acclaim.  “It proved that PBS could withstand great political and commercial pressure, and in many ways, laid the ground for FRONTLINE,” Fanning says.

In 1982, again with Thomas, Fanning produced Frank Terpil: Confessions of a Dangerous Man, which won the Emmy Award for best investigative documentary.  That same year Fanning began the development of FRONTLINE.

Launched in 1983, FRONTLINE set out, in Fanning’s words “to combine great journalism and great filmmaking.” The series has never shied from tough, controversial issues, and consistently made complex ideas accessible through powerful narrative storytelling, shaped by a rigorous editorial review. Over the past 30 years FRONTLINE has worked with over 200 producers and as many journalists, covering a wide range of domestic and foreign stories.  Reviewers and critics have been lavish in their praise, calling FRONTLINE “the most consistently important weekly hour on television” (Cleveland Plain Dealer) and “one of the most distinguished in television history” (The Philadelphia Inquirer).

With Fanning’s enthusiastic encouragement, one of FRONTLINE’s singular achievements was its early embrace of the Internet. In 1995, FRONTLINE developed one of the first deep-content web sites in history (Waco: The Inside Story). By putting interviews, documents and additional editorial materials on the web, the series made its journalism transparent and set a new standard for broadcast journalism. Rather than an ephemeral one-time transmission, the documentaries and all their ancillary materials are now preserved on the series’ web site. And, as of mid-2013, there are more than 158 hours of full-length documentaries streaming on the series’ web site, one of the largest sites of its kind. “This is the great promise of public media,” says Fanning. “This is where we hold our work for the future, our public library, our contribution to the intellectual commons.”

In 1987, Fanning created the PBS series Adventure, which ran for five seasons. With adventurers Lorne and Lawrence Blair, Fanning produced Ring of Fire, an epic four-part travel series that explored the Indonesian archipelago. Adventure produced over 50 films with travelers and writers from Peter Mathiessen to Gerald Durrell.

In 2002, Fanning’s determination to bring more foreign stories to American audiences led to the creation of FRONTLINE/World, a television magazine-style series of programs designed to encourage a new, younger generation of producers and reporters. Inspired by his earlier series WORLD, Fanning’s emphasis was on bringing a largely unreported world to viewers through a series of journeys and encounters. Like its parent series, FRONTLINE/World made a deep commitment to its Web site, offering original web-exclusive video and reporting by young producers and an international network of reporter/correspondents. After nine seasons, the magazine format was adapted by FRONTLINE as part of its regular, now year-round schedule.  Fanning sees FRONTLINE/World as a prototype for a new digital series, a place to build a community of enterprising journalists and to train a new generation of filmmakers, who can employ digital technologies to tell the important stories of our time.

In 2004, Fanning received the Columbia Journalism Award, the highest honor awarded by the faculty of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, recognizing “singular journalistic performance in the public interest … David Fanning and his signature program, FRONTLINE, have turned a commitment to probing journalism and public service into an enduring national conversation, without which far too many important issues would remain veiled or hidden altogether.” In 2010 he was awarded the Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism by Harvard University.

Fanning and his wife, the television writer and director Renata Simone, live in Marblehead, Mass.

FRONTLINE

FRONTLINE is US television’s longest-running investigative documentary series. The series has won all of the major awards for broadcast journalism: 57 Emmys, including a special Emmy Award for excellence in documentary filmmaking; 27 duPont-Columbia University Awards; 15 Peabody Awards; 11 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards; eight Television Critics Awards; and eight Banff Television Awards. In 1990 and in 1996, FRONTLINE was recognized with the Gold Baton — the highest duPont-Columbia Award — for its “total contribution to the world of exceptional television.” In 2002, the series was honored with an unprecedented third Gold Baton for its post-Sept. 11 coverage, a series of seven hour-long documentaries on the origins and impact of terrorism.

To learn more, visit pbs.org/frontline.

The News & Documentary Emmy® Awards

The News & Documentary Emmy® Awards are annually attended by more than 1,000 television and news media industry executives, news and documentary producers and journalists. Emmy® Awards are presented in 41 categories, including Breaking News, Investigative Reporting, Outstanding Interview, and Best Documentary, among others.

About The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) is a service organization of over 13,000 media professionals dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of television and the promotion of creative leadership for artistic, educational and technical achievements within the television industry. It recognizes excellence in television with the coveted Emmy® Award for News & Documentary, Sports, Daytime Entertainment, Daytime Creative Arts & Entertainment, Public & Community Service, and Technology & Engineering.  Regional Emmy® Awards are given in 19 regions across the United States.  Beyond awards, NATAS has extensive educational programs including Regional Student Television and its Student Award for Excellence for outstanding journalistic work by high school students, as well as scholarships, publications, and major activities for both industry professionals and the viewing public.  For more information, please visit the website at www.emmyonline.tv

Press Contacts

Paul Pillitteri – ppillitteri@emmyonline.tv
Patrice Taddonio – patrice_taddonio@wgbh.org

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