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"What is an Independent producer?

MontanaPBS defines an Independent Producer as a person who has knowledge and experience in the production of film and video, but who is not affiliated with a studio, a television station or a major production company. We recognize that the Independent Community ranges from emerging producers to seasoned veterans. Many of you will be looking for help, guidance or support from MontanaPBS. While our resources are limited, we do want to assist Independent Producers in any way possible.

How does an Independent Producer work with MontanaPBS?

While each project is a little different, your project might fall into one of the following categories:

Submitting a Completed Program for Broadcast
Submissions on DVD should be sent to the Director of Programming along with a synopsis, key personnel biographies, complete list of funding sources, and any additional materials you feel may assist in the assessment of the program for potential broadcast on MontanaPBS. All videos will be screened and a response given to the producer within 6 to 8 weeks. If a program is accepted for broadcast on MontanaPBS, then a license agreement is negotiated with the Independent Producer.

Licensing Agreement & Program Information Form
In most cases due to our very limited resources, MontanaPBS does not purchase programs from Independent Producers. In consideration for presenting your program to a statewide audience, we request ‘Standard’ broadcast rights, which grant
MontanaPBS the right to broadcast the program for four releases over a period of three years from the first date of broadcast. Other broadcast rights may be negotiated on a case-by-case basis, and in some rare cases MontanaPBS will offer a modest fee for broadcast rights. As copyright holder, the Independent Producer remains solely responsible for clearing any and all rights for MontanaPBS’ broadcast of the program.

There is potential for sale of home video and other program related ancillary products to viewers, in the event MontanaPBS schedules a statewide broadcast of your program. This requires the Independent Producer to create a Product Offer within the credits of the program, according to standard PBS guidelines which will be clarified before completion of the license agreement. Generally MontanaPBS does not share in these revenues.

With the license agreement, the producer must also complete a Program Information Form (link) that outlines a variety of data about the program.

Technical Criteria
All programs must be of broadcast quality and will be evaluated by station engineers. Acceptable formats are DVC-Pro, DV, Beta SP, and Beta SX videotape. MontanaPBS recognizes that a variety of video technologies are now available to producers. In the event a producer has a question about an acceptable format, we encourage them to contact us before beginning work on the production. Standard lengths of 26:46, 56:46, 1:26:46 or 1:56:46 are preferable. MontanaPBS generally makes an in-house dub of the program for air and returns the original tape to the producer.

Broadcast Dates
To meet the print deadline for the MontanaPBS Monthly Program Guide, and to allow adequate time for promotion of programs, the broadcast schedule is locked six weeks in advance. Generally, licensed programs are first aired between six months to one year after the execution of the license agreement. MontanaPBS may contact the producer once the program has been scheduled. Producers are always welcome to contact MontanaPBS’ Direct of Programming to inquire about the status of their programs.

Programs in Development or in Production
Both MontanaPBS stations, KUFM-TV in Missoula and KUSM-TV in Bozeman have television production facilities for live studio and field production, video editing, and post production. While our technical and human resources at both stations are limited, MontanaPBS is always interested to hear about a program idea you may have. We encourage Independent Producers to contact either station with their projects in development or projects already in production but in need of assistance for completion.

MontanaPBS can often provide advice on fundraising, technical considerations, methods of distribution and a variety of other helpful tips on the process of bringing a project to air. An Independent Producer may request a Letter of Support from MontanaPBS. Sometimes a program in development can become a co-production opportunity with either KUSM-TV or KUFM-TV. As a co-producer the station shares responsibility for fundraising, production services, copyright and editorial content. Stations can not make outright grants of funds for productions. A co-production relationship between a station and an independent producer requires a contractual agreement. Independent Producers are welcome to contact either station with their project in development or already in production.

Letters of Support
MontanaPBS will consider writing letters in support of selected independent projects. These letters expressing MontanaPBS interest in the project, knowledge of the producer, and intention to broadcast the program upon completion, can be helpful to the Independent Producer in the search for funding sources. Generally the Director of Programming will review the proposal, treatment, and any other materials provided. A letter will be issued to the producer, assuming a favorable evaluation of the subject matter, potential interest for the MontanaPBS audience and a judgment that the producer is capable of completing the program.

Independent Producer's Guide - Criteria for Programs

This guide is designed to assist you in understanding some of the criteria on which MontanaPBS reviews local programming. It is helpful if you have answered most, if not all, of these criteria in advance of presenting your project idea or completed program to Montana PBS.

MontanaPBS’s Production and programming priorites:

  • Local, Montana stories (bonus with a national interest)
  • Education and Life-Long Learning
  • Arts & Entertainment
  • Health & Fitness
  • Science & Agriculture
  • Diversity and Social Issues

MontanaPBS places special emphasis on project ideas that relate to Montana, its land and people and particularly our Native American minorities.

MontanaPBS’s criteria for evaluating proposals:

  • Does the program fit within and further MontanaPBS s Mission?
  • Is there a need for this type of program?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What is the value to funders?
  • Are there similar projects under development already in the system?
  • Is there a potential national PBS interest for this production?
  • Does the program have primetime potential?
  • Where applicable, what is the quality of on-air creative talent, writer, and director associated with the project?
  • Does the project have added benefits that go beyond the broadcast:
  • Outreach potential – Web Site ideas
  • Educational/Instructional companion materials
  • Video or Book sales
  • Pledge Potential

Local/Regional Funding Sources

Greater Montana Foundation
The Greater Montana Foundation benefits the people of Montana by encouraging communication, with an emphasis on electronic media, on issues, trends and values of importance to present and future generations of Montanans.

Greater Montana Foundation
1417 Helena Avenue
Helena, Montana 59601

Montana Committee for the Humanities
The Montana Committee for the Humanities is Montana's independent nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), a federal agency that supports learning and public programs in history, literature, philosophy, languages, and other humanities disciplines. Since its founding in 1972, the Committee's grants and services have served Montanans with thousands of public conferences, lectures, workshops, and exhibits, a statewide speaker's bureau, reading/discussion programs, an extensive media collection, television, radio, film, and video productions, research and scholarship, and a variety of publications.

311 Brantly Hall
The University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812-7848

National Funding Sources

MontanaPBS recognizes that Independent producers are a vital creative force in providing programming to public television and the national PBS system.

In co-operation with the Independent Television Service (ITVS), we participate in an initiative that helps independent producers enter into production partnerships with public television stations. LINCS (Linking Independents and Co-Producing Stations) offers up to $100,000 of production funding from ITVS in support of station/independent co-productions.

ITVS guidelines for applying to LINCS (including application deadline and pointers on building a partnership with a station) can be found on the ITVS Website at, or call ITVS at 415-356-8383 ext. 270 for further information.

Please send show proposals for a possible submission to LINCS to:

Paul Heitt-Rennie
183 VCB, MSU
Bozeman, MT 59717


Ray Ekness
PARTV 180, The University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812

The deadline for MontanaPBS consideration of LINCS proposals is April 1st.

Online Form

Whether you have a completed project ready for broadcast or just an idea you would like us to consider, submit a Program Proposal using our online form.