American Denial filmmakers Llewellyn Smith, Christine Herbes-Sommers, and Kelly Thomson
Media that Matters

Independent Lens and POV Are the Most Diverse Documentary Series on TV

October 23, 2015 by Independent Lens in

Last week, the Center for Media & Social Impact released the results of its audit on diversity in commercial and public documentary television, and ranked Independent Lens and our sister series POV at the top. CMSI reviewed 165 docs that aired over the last two years in the U.S., comparing socially-conscious films presented by HBO, CNN, and on PBS programs. The films were examined along four key dimensions:

  • minority directors
  • women directors
  • minority and international characters
  • female producers

When it comes to minority directors, Independent Lens and POV dominate the field, featuring double the percentage of diverse directors as its nearest commercial competitors.

Graph showing Independent Lens and POV feature double the percentage of minority directors as the nearest commercial competitor.
Chart via Center for Media & Social Impact

Independent Lens and POV also led the way in featuring minority and international characters. A quick glance at our slate last season shows 13 out of our 21 films focused on minority, women, or international characters. And you can look forward to plenty more where that came from: our fall season, which began this week with our FRONTLINE co-production of Immigration Battle, lines up with 100% of our films directed by women and featuring minority, women, or international characters.

Graph showing Independent Lens and POV feature the most minority and international characters in documentary television.
Graph via the Center for Media & Social Impact

The bottom line? “Independent filmmakers with a diverse team or characters have options these days, but their best bet is still public TV,” writes Pat Aufderheide, Co-Director of the Center for Social Media, which produced the study. For more background on the CMSI study, read this RealScreen piece by Manori Ravindran.

Full disclosure: Pat Aufderheide is a member of the ITVS board of directors, the co-presenting organization, along with PBS, of Independent Lens.

Independent Lens