‘Frontline’ Expands PBS Programming

At a time when many news organizations are cutting back, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is continuing its efforts to bolster in-depth journalism in public media. The corporation said on Tuesday that it was giving “Frontline” a $6 million, two-year grant that would allow it to expand its investigative programming to a year-round schedule on PBS stations.

The money, plus an additional $1.6 million that is still being raised, will pay for seven to eight new programs each year, so the 28-year-old show will no longer have to take a summer hiatus. The expansion was announced in Austin, Tex., at PBS’s annual meeting.

The corporation’s investment was “brought on by the recognition that there’s a crisis in journalism and there’s a real call for public media to step up,” David Fanning, the executive producer of “Frontline,” said in a telephone interview before the announcement. “The summer hiatus did stop us from doing certain stories,” he added.

The new episodes, interspersed throughout the year, will include three stories an hour, not the usual hourlong “Frontline” investigations. “With shorter pieces, you don’t have the high bar of having to justify a full budget,” Mr. Fanning said.

The shorter pieces will also have a quicker turnaround, so the program “can jump into a moving story,” like the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, he said. The time will also be used for following up traditional “Frontline” investigations. Now, he said, once a documentary is finished, the reporting on the topic ends, and “we don’t want to do that anymore.”

In March the corporation, which administers federal funds for public broadcasting, said it would make a separate $7.5 million available to set up seven regional reporting projects that would be collaborative efforts between public radio and TV stations.

Explaining the grant to “Frontline,” Patricia Harrison, the president and chief executive of the corporation, said of Mr. Fanning’s work, “He’s a trusted brand.” The program, she said, has “managed to take on issues that have gored everybody’s ox on all sides of the political aisle.”

As part of the expansion, “Frontline” is stepping up its collaborative efforts with journalism schools and nonprofit news organizations, including the Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica, Mr. Fanning said. “Frontline” will also put more reporting on the Web and share more content with other public television shows, local public stations and public radio. A companion series called “Frontline/World” that had relied heavily on young journalists armed with small digital cameras will now move completely onto the Web.

“There’s an opportunity here to do some innovation, to get a younger generation involved, and to get some more diversity into the reporting ranks, and those meet CPB’s goals,” Mr. Fanning said. He emphasized that the show was not abandoning its long-form documentaries, however, adding, ‘That’s the standard we’ve set ourselves.”