How can I get my program on PBS SoCaL or distributed to PBS stations nationally? There is no guarantee PBS SoCaL will provide airtime for your program or distribute your program nationally. However, these tips may help: Read our Producing with PBS SoCaL submissions information carefully, sign the Producer Submission Release, follow the directions, answer our questions, solidify your own funding in compliance with PBS guidelines, create and submit a quality program with the PBS viewer in mind.
What costs are involved once my program has been accepted for broadcast? PBS SoCal will ask you to provide your program free of charge for broadcast in the LA market. Producers are responsible for production costs, closed captioning and deliverables. There are negotiable fees we charge if you wish to have PBS SoCaL as a Presenting Station for possible national distribution of your program.
How do I make money on my program? Recouping funds for your production expenses and/or distribution expenses plus any financial gains are met by developing underwriting for your own program.
Where do I find funding for my program? If you believe in your project, so will others! Potential underwriters may already be familiar with the quality of content on PBS. Once PBS SoCaL has reviewed your program submission/proposal and we have expressed interest in your program, we can create a letter of interest that may help you secure funding from underwriters.
How do I produce an underwriter spot for my program? PBS SoCaL follows the principles of PBS national underwriting policy. For example, underwriting spots may not include calls to action or qualitative comparisons and underwriters may not have editorial control over content. You can view the complete PBS underwriting policy here. PBS SoCaL can provide advice and guidance to producers who are in the process of securing underwriting or producing an underwriter spot for their program.
I’m the creative type, not the business type. Do I need a pro to help me through this? PBS SoCaL has had many first-time producers successfully navigate their way through the quality/content/technical specs required of public broadcasting. Our program development and national productions team is here to help guide you through the process of getting your program on public broadcasting. We suggest you become familiar with the national PBS Redbook before producing your program.
I have an idea for a show. Can I have PBS SoCaL produce it? Most producers who submit projects have funders already attached, or a plan that identifies likely sources of funding. As program producer, you will need to outline your plans to make your program, and advise on key creative staff you will use. If we are interested, we will indicate our desire to support you in the capacity as broadcast TV station, but not as a fundraiser or video production company. We are happy to express interest in a production, or a willingness to broadcast, assuming it meets our criteria. We do provide production management, advisory services and presenting station support on a select number of projects per year.
Can I sell a DVD of my show at the end of my program? You may include a video offer at the end of the program if the offer is made by a non-profit company. PBS SoCaL can provide specifics on how to produce your program related goods and services offer when applicable.
What kind of promotion can I expect if my program is accepted for broadcast? In most cases, once you have submitted an approved and completed promo for your program per our guidelines, PBS SoCaL will broadcast your promo on the air, and will use best efforts to promote your program on our website/social media/weekly e-newsletter blast/ and possibly facilitate a press release for major media outlets. These actions will reach our core audience. We encourage you to become your show’s ambassador too, by sending out email blasts and posting social media announcements for those people/groups you feel would be interested in watching and cross promoting your show.
How is it decided if my show will air on PBS SoCaL? Content evaluation is based on a broad range of editorial, aesthetic, technical, and other considerations. Our Emmy® award-winning team has decades of experience in successfully developing and choosing programming that aligns with our mission and fits the public television brand.
Why does my show need to be closed-captioned? In 1996, Congress required TV stations, like PBS SoCaL, to make sure their television programs are closed-captioned for the hearing-disabled. Producers should know that once a closed-captioned program is broadcast, the program may also need to be closed captioned online, if the program is made available online.
How do I get my show closed captioned? Once your program has met approval, if needed, PBS SoCaL can refer you to captioning companies that are familiar with PBS SoCaL requirements for broadcast programs.
What if I only have an idea for a show? PBS SoCaL works with producers at various stages in the production process, from development to local broadcast and national distribution. Please review our Program Proposal Submission instructions.
When will my completed and approved program air? Due to print and promotion deadlines, PBS SoCaL locks its broadcast schedules at least eight weeks in advance. PBS SoCaL will contact the producer once the program has been scheduled.
How long will it take to hear back from PBS SoCaL once I have submitted my program or proposal? PBS SoCaL promptly acknowledges the receipt of submissions, however due to the high volume of submissions we receive it may take 6-8 weeks to receive a complete response. We are sorry, but we cannot guarantee the return of submission materials or final program deliverables.
Can you provide some general information about how public television works?
GETTING YOUR PROGRAM OR IDEA ON PUBLIC TELEVISION:
BASIC INFORMATION FOR INDEPENDENT PRODUCERS
Unlike commercial television networks which spend huge sums of money to buy, or produce programs and series which their affiliated stations are required to air, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is not a network, rather, as the name suggests, PBS is a SERVICE. It is a membership organization and program co-operative composed of more than 350 individual public television stations nationwide. Funding for national programming flows primarily from the individual stations to PBS in the form of annual dues.
Among numerous other services, PBS aggregates programming produced or acquired by individual member stations to provide a national "prime time" program stream via satellite to all stations. Each station has the power to either air or not to air any given program in the schedule or to air the program at a different time, depending on the station’s needs. PBS has been empowered by the stations to establish legal, technical, and production value standards for the programs it distributes. PBS can sometimes require many months or years of collaboration in order to accept a program or project, and has the highest standards for producers. It also has the highest rate of rejection.
In addition to PBS, public television stations have established other program cooperatives to distribute programming. Among these are American Public Television (APT) or the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) which are prominent sources of programming for most stations. Stations pay an annual blanket license fee to APT or NETA, much less than what they pay PBS. Almost all 350+ public TV stations have access to these 3 major distributors.
HOW DOES A PROGRAM GET CARRIED NATIONALLY?
Whether produced or acquired, many programs are "entered" into the system by an individual station which must provide a variety of services and assurances before the program will be accepted for distribution. Most stations charge a “presenting station” fee for being the entry station, which can differ from station to station according to the level of service provided or by market size. New York City and Los Angeles have the most viewers, and presenting station fees will be higher in these markets, depending on the level of project management required of the station. Some independent producers choose to use the services of a station, whereas others go directly to the distributor and handle program development, packaging and delivery details without assistance.
WHAT’S THE BENEFIT OF WORKING THROUGH A DISTRIBUTOR?
Whether the producer works with or without a presenting station, using a distributor like PBS, APT, or NETA makes it much easier for stations in other cities to accept a program for broadcast. Stations don’t have much staff time to verify, process, and insert shows from random providers. They prefer going through a distributor. All TV stations have to deal with 168 hours of new programming each week. PBS stations have to find efficiency of operation, and typically only have one or two people handling the physical aspects of data entry, videotape delivery, copying to our computer and also working with producers on rights, paperwork, and the legal stuff. A distributor streamlines program delivery via satellite distribution, electronically feeding directly from dish-to-computer playback, without anyone at the station having to handle a file or videotape at all. All the data entry is handled seamlessly. A station’s blanket license with PBS, NETA and APT provides for thousands of hours of programming, paving the path of least resistance for program acquisition.
Phil and Mary Lyons
Dr. James Rosser