Local public television stations can be one of your strongest educational outreach partners, helping to bring your project to communities across the country, connecting national partners to community coalitions, and distributing your materials to your target audience.
Stations vary widely in their involvement in educational outreach. Some stations focus primarily on Ready to Learn, services to children up to 8 years old. Others, particularly statewide networks, provide significant school-based support through instructional video, teacher training, and their educational services departments. Still others provide services to adults and lifelong learners. And many serve as community catalysts, pulling together coalitions of local organizations around specific issues.
The National Center for Outreach (NCO) recently commissioned a survey of outreach services at public television stations in order to define the "state of the state" for outreach. You can download a PDF of the survey at www.nationaloutreach.org. According to this survey, outreach services are housed in a variety of different station departments:
- 13% of stations have departments exclusively dedicated to outreach services
- 35% are located in Education departments
- 26% are located in Promotion/Communications departments
So when working with a station, it is important that you identify which department can provide you the assistance you need.
In the fall of 2000, the Independent Television Service (ITVS) convened two separate focus groups of public television outreach staff. Twenty-eight participants representing stations in 20 states attended. You may find the ITVS focus group report helpful as you think about what resources to make available to stations.
Demands on outreach staff are competing and ever-changing. As the report notes, "Outreach is a discipline with fuzzy edges, open to interpretation and re-negotiation at the level of the individual station." As one woman reported: "I have never seen a job description for my position. It just keeps growing and growing." This reality is not meant to scare you away from using local public television stations as a resource and partner. Rather, armed with this information, you will be able to better work with stations by providing them the resources and support that they need. They can then be your keys to the city!
You can reach stations either through your presenting station or through the NCO's mailing list of station outreach staff. Resources that you or your educational outreach manager can offer stations include the following:
- Copies of all series resources, such as print materials, press kits, and series backgrounders, that will help stations understand your project and consider how to best support the needs of their community
- Multiple copies of educational resources related to your project that they can distribute locally
- Suggestions for the types of local educational outreach projects they may want to consider launching
- Information about national partners with local chapters with whom they might be interested in partnering
- Stipends to support their outreach efforts
To offer stipends, you will want to send a request for proposal (rfp) to the station's educational outreach staff asking them to propose what they will do. The size of the stipend will depend on your budget. As more and more projects offer stations stipends (generally ranging from $1,000 to $15,000, with most in the $2,000-5,000 range), you will be entering a somewhat competitive environment. The more you can offer, the more appealing your project may be.