Supporting Independent Documentary Films and Non-Commercial Public Radio
July 11, 2003 | Press Release | Journalism & Media

MacArthur has awarded grants totaling more than $5.2 million in support of the production of independent documentary films and independent non-commercial radio.

"We believe it is important to maintain reliable sources of objective information and thoughtful analysis that can place American issues and interests in a worldwide context," said Jonathan F. Fanton, President of MacArthur. "When we first began making grants, we recognized the need to make sure the issues we supported-from mental health policy to the environment and human rights-were part of a public debate. Our support for public media is intended to help advance a diversity of voices about subjects that are of great importance not only to the Foundation, but also to the American public." 

A grant of $2.5 million over five years was awarded to Minneapolis-based Public Radio International. Funding will provide continued support of PRI's news and public affairs programming, and will also provide PRI with flexibility to start new and innovative programs. PRI currently has 741 affiliated public radio stations. Its news and information programs represent more than 40 percent of the programming used in the top 30 markets nationwide.

WGBH Educational Foundation in Boston received a grant of $800,000 over two years in support of Frontline/World, an international news documentary series on PBS, to engage and educate the U.S. public about the institutions and forces shaping this global era. Each hour-long program features two 20-minute and one 10-minute segments from around the world. Funds will be used for programs that explore a wide range of issues-from war and political conflict to human rights and economic development. Among the stories produced during the first year of the grant are segments examining the post war conflicts in Iraq between Arabs and Kurds; growing US military involvement with the Philippine government in fighting an Islamic separatist movement in Mindanao; and the role of socially responsible corporations in the "fair trade" coffee movement in Mexico and Guatemala. The format not only brings non-commercial coverage of international news to the American public, but also nurtures the talents of younger journalists and filmmakers by providing them the opportunity to produce short-form documentaries with the guidance of a highly experienced editorial production team.

A grant of $800,000 over two years was made to Thirteen/WNET New York in support of Wide Angle, an international public affairs documentary series on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Wide Angle brings timely and underreported international stories to public television audiences. Topics include the politics of the Bolivian cocaine trade, government control of the media in Italy, economic empowerment in post-apartheid South Africa, and the global explosion in international human trafficking, among others. Each broadcast features in-depth exploration of a single topic followed by discussion with an invited expert on the issue. Thirteen/WNET is a public television station in New York and a leading source of national programming for PBS.

A grant of $250,000 was awarded to  Native American Public Telecommunications  in support of a multi-part documentary series entitled, Native Americans in the 21st Century, which explores the cultural, educational, and economic status of contemporary Native Americans. It will be the first major examination of present-day Native American life led by Native scholars, writers, and producers. Native American Public Telecommunications produces and distributes radio and television programs about Native American topics. 

Habitat Media in San Rafael, California, received a grant of $200,000 in support of Farming the Seas, an independent documentary film about sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. Farming the Seas is the sequel to Empty Oceans, Empty Nets, which together make up a two-part film series about the declining state of marine fisheries worldwide and efforts to restore and sustain them. Habitat Media was created in 1999 to produce documentary films and educational videos that encourage citizen, consumer and industry involvement in conservation and sustainable development worldwide.

Internews Network received a grant of $200,000 to help produce a documentary film called In the Tall Grass, an hour-long documentary film exploring Rwanda's gacaca and its efforts to bring justice and reconciliation to the communities wracked by the country's genocide of 1994. Gacaca, which literally means "on the grass," is a traditional Rwandan form of justice that is being used to try the bulk of the genocide cases in the country. Panels of local community members-most of whom have no legal training-oversee the process, which encourages the accused to confess their crimes in open, informal gatherings "on the grass" and accept sentences determined by the community. Internews is an international non-profit organization that fosters independent media in emerging democracies, produces innovative television and radio programming and Internet content, and uses the media to reduce conflict within and between countries.

A grant of $200,000 was awarded to Snitow-Kaufman Productions, Inc. in Berkeley, California, for the production of Thirst, a documentary film about water scarcity and privatization. It will examine case studies in three countries-Bolivia, India, and the U.S.-focusing on water rights issues and the impact of water privatization on several communities in those countries.

A grant of $100,000 was made to WorldLink TV to produce a series of news analysis programs about reactions in the Arab world to the conflict in Iraq. The shows will contrast the coverage of current events in Iraq as reported by 15 national broadcasters in the Mideast and the U.S. media. The series will, in part, be built on WorldLink TV's report, "MOSAIC, World News from the Middle East," a daily half-hour compilation of news from more than a dozen countries in the Arab world and Israel. WorldLink, which is operated by Link Media, Inc., is a noncommercial satellite television channel established to help provide U.S. viewers a variety of internationally oriented public affairs, documentary, and cultural programs.

Globalvision, Inc., received a grant of $75,000 to help complete production of a documentary film entitled, The Hole in the Wall. This film tells the story of what happened when a research scientist in New Delhi, India, put a computer with Internet access in a public place and watched as poor children-with very limited exposure to even a computer-figured out how to "surf the web" on their own. Globalvision, Inc. is an international film and television production company that has produced award-winning films about globalization, poverty, human rights, and other pressing international issues.

California Newsreel received a grant of $70,000 to help complete production of RACE -The Power of Illusion, a three-part documentary film series designed to investigate myths about race in the U.S. It will explore the origin of the concept of race in this country and the ways in which it continues to affect life chances and opportunities. California Newsreel is one of the oldest nonprofit documentary production and distribution centers in the nation. It has the largest holdings in North America of film and video by and about Africa and African Americans.

Second Generation Media, Inc. received a grant of $70,000 in support of The Sixth Section, a documentary film that follows a group of men from Boqueron, Mexico, now working in Newbugh, New York, who have organized what is called a "hometown association" to help improve their small rural community in Mexico. Mexican immigrants originally created the associations as a way to interact with people from their own communities in the places where they settled in the U.S. The associations have since become a means of supporting projects in their hometowns to improve roads and sewers, and to provide potable water, schools, and scholarships. Second Generation Media, Inc., is a New York-based production company that produces media projects addressing concerns of the Latino community.


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