celebrating 20 years of FRONTLINE
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20 years / 420 programs
david fanning

Since 1983, FRONTLINE has served as PBS's flagship public affairs series. Hailed upon its debut as "the last best hope for broadcast documentaries," FRONTLINE's stature over 20 seasons is reaffirmed each week through incisive documentaries covering the scope and complexity of the human experience.

FRONTLINE opening sequence

When FRONTLINE was born, however, the prospects for television news documentaries looked grim. Pressure was on the network news departments to become profitable, and the spirit of outspoken journalistic inquiry established by programs like Edward R. Murrow's "See It Now" and "Harvest of Shame" had given way to entertainment values and feature-filled magazine shows. Therefore, it fell to public television to pick up the torch of public affairs and continue this well-established broadcast news tradition.

Since its inception, FRONTLINE has never shied away from tough, controversial issues or complex stories. In an age of anchor celebrities and snappy sound bites, FRONTLINE remains committed to providing a primetime venue for engaging documentaries that fully explore and illuminate the critical issues of our times. FRONTLINE remains the only regularly scheduled long-form public-affairs documentary series on American television, producing more hours of documentary programming than all the commercial networks combined.

From producer Ofra Bikel's seven-year investigation of the Little Rascals sexual abuse case to Martin Smith and Lowell Bergman's sweeping chronicle of America's drug wars; from Helen Whitney's probing biography of Pope John Paul II to Barak Goodman and Rachel Dretzin's ""Lost Children of Rockdale County," FRONTLINE gives top-notch journalists the time needed to thoroughly research a story and the time on-air to tell their story in a compelling way.

Credible, thoughtful reporting combined with powerful narrative -- a good story, well-told. That is the heart of FRONTLINE's commitment to its viewers.

 the most distinguished anthology of news and public affairs documentaries on TV, the one obvious heir to CBS late, great 'See It Now.'

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