Independent Television Service: Grants for Journalism

OVERVIEW: ITVS funding for journalism supports the presentation and promotion of documentaries on public television and cable, innovative new media projects on the internet, and the award-winning PBS series Independent Lens. Its goal is to bring "independently-produced, high-quality public broadcast and new media programs to local, national and international audiences."

IP TAKE: ITVS gives almost all of its funding to projects intended for broadcast on public television.

PROFILE: Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds new programs for public and cable television as well as new media and internet projects. ITVS provides “independently-produced, high-quality public broadcast and new media programs to local, national, and international audiences,” seeks to “take creative risks, tackle complex issues, and express points of view seldom explored in the mass media,” enriches “the cultural landscape with the voices and visions of underrepresented communities,” and reflects “the interests and concerns of a diverse society.” It does not provide grants per se; rather it receives first-look distribution rights in exchange for funding, though individual filmmakers retain copyright and creative control.

ITVS has a handful of different initiatives for journalism grant seekers:

Open Call – The funding provided under this initiative varies widely as it provides completion funds for "single nonfiction public television programs on any subject, and from any viewpoint." Deadlines are twice each year, typically in February and August.

The Diversity Development Fund – This initiative provides up to $15,000 in funding for producers of color for projects that have not yet entered into the production phase. These grants support research and development in order to help develop single documentary programs for public television.

Digital Open Call - This initiative supports projects in pre-production for distribution on public media. It provides up to $30,000 in research and development funding. The annual deadline for application is in May.

Series and Special Projects – Occasionally ITVS provides funding for a few special series or projects to pay for the cost of development activities such as research and script development, as well as funding for production and post-production activities. These awards are extremely limited and proposals are accepted on an ongoing basis. These funds are meant for already commissioned documentary projects that "fall outside of the parameters of the standing initiatives."

ITVS also accepts submissions for the Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens on an ongoing basis. Films in an advanced rough cut or fine cut or completed stage are all eligible. See the full guidelines here.

An important note: ITVS prioritizes small, independent filmmakers and producers, so large film companies need not apply. Also, grant seekers who work for a commercial broadcast organization or film studio as producer/director and are considered a regular employee of that company do not qualify for ITVS funding. However, staff members do qualify for funding.


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