Documentary filmmaker Grace Lee has launched a new podcast called Viewers Like Us. A riff on the familiar PBS slogan “This program was made possible by contributions to your station by viewers like you”, the podcast dives more deeply into the lack of diversity among PBS filmmakers.
The podcast builds upon the work of Beyond Inclusion, a collective of Black, Indigenous and people of color documentarians that rallied nearly 700 non-fiction makers, executives, and field builders to sign an open letter and call to action to PBS in March 2021.
In October 2020, Lee wrote an essay for the Ford Foundation that was also published on Current, calling for PBS to end its over-reliance on documentaries made by Ken Burns. In an excerpt from that piece, Lee acknowledges public television’s role in opening doors for her own career—but those opportunities are disproportionately going to “America’s Storyteller”:
“In 2020, I was a producer on Asian Americans, a groundbreaking series for which we had five hours to tell 150 years of history spanning from the Chinese who built the railroads to South Asians targeted after 9/11. Compare this to 16 hours of Country Music, which also aired in 2020, or 13 hours of The Roosevelts — both by Ken Burns. His 2021-2024 slate includes six hours on Ernest Hemingway, eight hours on Muhammad Ali, and four hours each for Benjamin Franklin, and the American Buffalo. When bison merit 80% of the airtime afforded to Asian American history, it calls into question not only the leadership of public television but also who gets to tell these stories, and why.”
Episode 3 of Viewers Like Us is scheduled to drop Tuesday, November 2. You can listen at the Viewers Like Us website, Apple, Spotify, or Stitcher, and follow them on Twitter: @_ViewersLikeUs_ or Instagram: @viewerslikeuspod.