Over the next two years (1998 - 2000), a number of entertaining, high profile and provocative programs that deal with race will air nationally on PBS. The Television Race Initiative (TRI) builds audiences and magnifies the impact of each broadcast by linking stories, creating a context for discussion and activities, and most importantly, supporting opportunities to sustain citizen engagement over time. Recognizing that most people find race difficult to discuss, TRI builds relationships with community coalitions dedicated to solving race relations problems. Through rigorous support and ongoing technical assistance, TRI encourages these coalitions to use the broadcasts in ways that support their particular objectives, such as recruitment, public policy campaigns, alliance-building, media outreach and dialogue. TRI is a project of American Documentary, Inc., producers of the Public Broadcasting System's "P.O.V." series.
TRI partners include national nonprofits, local and national media, public television stations, community groups, interfaith networks, businesses and educational institutions. Customized activities, designed by public television stations in collaboration with community groups, are focused in five pilot cities: San Francisco, Raleigh/Durham, Baltimore, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Boston. Raleigh/Durham has chosen to use the broadcasts to foster guided dialogue around its rapidly changing local demographics. San Francisco plans to use the broadcasts as "hooks" to inspire better media coverage and analysis of pressing concerns. Baltimore will organize broadcast-driven interfaith activities which invite places of worship to use storytelling as a vehicle for community building. Each television program will invite viewers to events, sneak previews and other public forums which promote long-term coalition building. On September 15, 1998, TRI launched the broadcast of Macky Alston's award winning Family Name.
Current and future Television Race Initiative programs will be accessible to virtually all Americans. Nationally, audiences will benefit from a multi-dimensional, diverse "virtual series" of ideas, perspectives and voices. In the five pilot cities, the programming provides interracial community coalitions with a media tool that supports their educational goals. In the future, TRI will be evaluated to explore the potential of storytelling on television as a tool to foster civic engagement. TRI will also serve to support the development of a new media model that can be extended and replicated.