Independent Television Service saluted for its 'foundational place in the flourishing of documentary film'
Without the support of the Independent Television Service, many of the most significant documentaries of the last few decades might not have seen the light of day, or darkened living rooms.
The Peabody Awards board of jurors recognized that cultural impact today by naming ITVS an institutional winner of its prestigious award, which are "reserved for individuals and institutions whose work and commitment to broadcast media define and transform the field."
Television pioneer Norman Lear was named an individual winner of the honor, which will be presented at the Peabody Awards ceremony in New York on May 20 (the event will be taped for broadcast on June 2 on PBS and the Fusion Network).
ITVS has had a broad transformative impact on the media landscape, particularly in public media.
"If any organization can claim a foundational place in the flourishing of documentary film over the past generation, it is the Independent Television Service (ITVS)," the Peabody website stated in announcing the award. "Conceived by independent filmmakers who saw a paucity of diversity in public media, ITVS was formed by Congress in 1988. Since then ITVS has had a broad transformative impact on the media landscape, particularly in public media."
The Peabody Awards jury praised ITVS for its record of "1,400 films funded and a staggering 32 Peabody Awards." Its citation mentioned some of those notable Peabody-winning documentaries including How to Survive a Plague (2013 winner), Two Towns of Jasper (2003 winner), India's Daughter (2015 winner), and The Invisible War (2013 winner).
Lear earned the Peabody recognition for his massive impact on television, through shows like All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and Maude.
"He revolutionized and democratized a traditionally timid, overwhelmingly white-bread medium with a collection of recognizable, risible characters whose racial and gender diversity was as unprecedented as their biases and brash opinions," the Peabody jury wrote.
Actress Rashida Jones will host the awards ceremony on May 20. The Peabodys are a program of the Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. The award is named for George Foster Peabody, an investment banker and benefactor of the university.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.