The ABC’s of PBS: Frontline

Seasons: 15...
February 1, 1998

Seasons: 15

Producing Station: wgbh

Viewership: 5.8 million per episode

Demographic: Male and female 35-50, with college education

Budget per hour: us$150,000-$1 million depending on location and length

New programs a year: 18-20

Since 1983, Frontline has served as pbs’ flagship public-affairs series, exploring the most controversial contemporary issues. Series manager Jim Bracciale is direct about the role of his show. ‘Our mission is to ask uncomfortable questions to people in authority.’

While Frontline works exclusively with independent producers, Bracciale doesn’t want to put out an open call for submissions. Frontline generally sticks to a small group of producers every season, some of whom have been working with the series since its inception.

‘I think to give the impression that an up-and-coming producer is going to get a shot at Frontline is misleading. We get a lot of proposals from filmmakers who are not prepared to deal with the editorial rigors we put our producers through. We’re not a funding enterprise, we’re a producing enterprise. A lot of independents come to us for funding, and they’d like to see their piece air as they produced it, but all our producers go under heavy scrutiny during the editorial process.’

Bracciale suggests the best way to make it on the series would be to do what many others already have: work with a producer on the show. Frontline has gathered many of its top producers through this mentoring process.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.