Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) is Georgia’s “free” television. Most of us know of public broadcasting for our favorite childhood shows like Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Aside from these great classics, most of us find other great shows on this channel. One of my favorite shows that helps me to escape from reality all in the comfort of my own home is Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door. For those not familiar with this show, Steve tells a tale about various places in Europe and goes to mainstream places in Europe with small tour groups visiting small, not-so-commercial places in Europe. It allows for a much more intimate exploration of fantastic places in Europe. Aside from kids shows and travel shows, GPB also has many unique documentaries covering wars, social issues, and historical topics. They also have one of my favorite news shows – Frontline – which covers so many provocative news topics that you probably wouldn’t see on mainstream news stations.
I can go on and on about how much enthusiasm I have for this television station but I’m going to digress and allow someone from the station tell us more about it. For this blog, I have collaborated with Mandy Wilson, Communications Manager at GPB and Pamela Roberts, Executive Producer at GPB – to tell us more about how awesome this television station is.
MC: I enjoy GPB! It is the home of some of my childhood favorites, travel shows, food shows, and great documentaries. If it weren’t for this station, I wouldn’t know about some of the exciting things in history or current events that aren’t discussed on primetime TV. Enough about my enthusiasm for GPB – tell our readers why GPB is important to Atlanta.
MW: GPB’s mission is to educate, inform and entertain, and we carry out our mission by delivering thought-provoking, insightful programs like Frontline, Morning Edition, American Experience and All Things Considered. We also develop educational resources and original programs such as Georgia Outdoors, Georgia Traveler and 37 Weeks: Sherman on the March, while working with statewide and regional partners on multi-platform initiatives that enable us to enhance the relevance of our programming and better serve the needs of our communities.
In addition to our national footprint from PBS and NPR, GPB also brings a Georgia perspective to the world with the national airings of GPB Original documentaries like Augusta’s Master Plan and Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel, which swept the 2012 Southeast Regional EMMY® Awards with wins in five categories, including historical documentary.
GPB Original programs like Georgia Traveler and Georgia Outdoors capture our state’s people, heritage and natural beauty and also offer supplemental education materials correlated to Georgia Performance Standards. GPB highlights community life with weekly coverage of high school football games on television and on the web, along with coverage of the annual GHSA Football, Basketball and Cheerleading Championships.
The annual broadcast of over 3,000 hours of trusted, commercial-free PBS Kids programs such as Sesame Street, Super Why!, and Dinosaur Train assure parents and caregivers that GPB is a safe haven for children. And while this has been a cornerstone of content offered for our young learners, GPB also offers original content at gpb.org that includes the games “Dinoventures” and “Salsa!.”
Additional educational multimedia content delivered though gpb.org includes digital assets for use in the classroom, such as video clips, curriculum, writing prompts and lesson plans, all aligned to Georgia Performance Standards. Over 80,000 Georgia educators regularly use GPB assets.
How does GPB determine what is in the television lineup? Is educational programming the only types of shows that can be on this network?
GPB receives much of its programming from PBS, but it also has access to programming from American Public Television, the BBC, and others. GPB produces a significant amount of original series like “Georgia Outdoors,” and “Georgia Traveler,” as well as original documentaries. We also work from time to time with Georgia-based independent producers for content. What goes into the schedule and where is based on careful analysis of audience response ranging from Nielsen ratings, to phone calls, letters, and emails received, as well as public financial response during membership campaigns, and of course what – in GPB’s best judgment – is important for audiences across the state to have exposure to. And though there is certainly an educational component of some degree to most of what GPB broadcasts, it’s not all an educational mold, but represent a true alternative to what is available on commercial television.
If I am not mistaken, this network has a lot of British programs that air. We have a sister organization of Women in Film and Television in London. Inform us and them of how you choose shows for your British segment of GPB.
Just to piggyback off of the last point I made about shows not all fitting the educational mold, we have the British segments which are comedies that air on Saturday nights. Decision making for the purchase of British shows is no different than that of American shows. It’s all based on quality production and content and also based on what viewers have responded well to in the past. Hence, we expect good response for these shows in the future.
Many of us have different interests in film and television. Tell our audiences how a career in public television could be something that could be worthwhile as an alternative to Hollywood.
Before I answer this question, Melisha, let me give you a little bit of my background in documentary making on GPB. One of my latest projects is “Dean Rusk: At the Heartbeat of History” about Georgian and former Secretary of State Dean Rusk. It premiered on GPB on May 27. Also, my GPB original documentary “Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel,” was released in 2011 in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the book “Gone With the Wind” and won five Southeast Regional Emmys and was featured as an episode of the national PBS program “American Masters.”
Now to answer your question, I will begin by saying I am truly fortunate to have had a career as a documentary filmmaker in public broadcasting, but I didn’t set out to do that. After graduating from college I moved to L.A. to study filmmaking at the University of Southern California and worked on both student and feature films, doing everything from script writing to schlepping cables as a production assistant. I had begun the laborious process of working one’s way up in the film industry which would hopefully pay off in becoming a Hollywood writer or director one day. After a while, however, I realized that my interests lay in the real world around me rather than in the world of fiction. Working with film school friends on the side, I made little nonfiction pieces and showed them to people who encouraged me to change directions.
Finding public broadcasting was like coming home. I have been at GPB for 17 years and have never had a day when I didn’t learn something. I have never been bored. I feel deeply privileged to be part of PBS which has the highest standards in terms of content, production values and original programming. I have lived in the world of American Masters, NOVA, Frontline, and Masterpiece Theatre. I have produced programs for Georgia and for national PBS and I have met and worked with extraordinary people both in front of and behind the camera.
Perhaps I could have had a successful career in Hollywood, but I am so glad I chose public broadcasting. Documentary filmmaking gave me an excuse to enter worlds I would otherwise never see, to meet people with extraordinary ideas and experiences and to learn about the roots of our life today from the richness of our history. Thanks to public broadcasting, I remain continuously fascinated by the world around me.
Logo courtesy of Mandy Wilson.