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Frontline (U.S. TV series)

For the satirical Australian series of the same name, see Frontline (Australian TV series). For other uses, see Front line (disambiguation).
Created by David Fanning
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes >600 (list of episodes)
Original channel PBS
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Original release January 17, 1983 (1983-01-17) – present
External links

Frontline (stylized as FRONTLINE) is a public affairs television program that produces and broadcasts in-depth documentaries about various subjects. Produced at WGBH-TV in Boston, Massachusetts and distributed through the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States, the program has been critically acclaimed and received numerous awards. Some programs are made by independent filmmakers and broadcast as part of the Frontline series. Since the series debut, there have been more than 500 films broadcast. Although primarily seen through television, the program shows a large portion of their shows in interactive webcasts on their main website.


The program debuted in 1983, with NBC anchorwoman Jessica Savitch as its host, but Savitch died later in the first season. Judy Woodruff took over as anchor in 1984, and hosted the program for five years. In 1990, the show did away with the anchor position, and left the narrator to introduce each report.

Since 1988, Frontline has also aired "The Choice"—a series of special editions aired during the lead-up to presidential elections, focusing on the two candidates in the running to become President of the United States. The most recent of these aired on October 9, 2012, and featured a dual biography tracing the lives and careers of incumbent President Barack Obama and his challenger, Mitt Romney. The previous installment aired on October 14, 2008, using the same dual-biography format for Obama and John McCain. The 2008 documentary, produced by Michael Kirk, generated favorable reviews from The New York Times, which stated that the program helped viewers "gain perspective" about the "idea-oriented campaign",[1] and The Los Angeles Times, which labeled it "refreshingly clear" and "informative".[2]

Most Frontline reports are an hour in length, but some are extended to 90 minutes or beyond. Frontline also does occasional specials like From Jesus to Christ, The Farmer's Wife, and Country Boys.[3]

Since 1995, Frontline has been producing deep-content, companion web sites for all of its documentaries. The series publishes extended interview transcripts, in-depth chronologies, original essays, sidebar stories, related links and readings, and source documents including photographs and background research. Frontline has made many of its documentaries available via streaming Internet video, from their website.

Will Lyman is the distinctive voice who has narrated most of the series since its inception in 1983.[4] However, certain reports have been narrated by David Ogden Stiers and Peter Berkrot.

The show is produced by the WGBH Educational Foundation, the parent company of WGBH-TV in Boston, who is solely responsible for its content.


Frontline/World is a spin-off series that first aired on May 23, 2002 and aired four to five times a year on Frontline until it was ended in 2010. It focused on issues from around the globe, and used a "magazine" format, where each hour-long episode typically had three stories that ran about 15 to 20 minutes in length. Its tagline is: Stories from a small planet. Based in part at the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, "Frontline/World" recruited a new generation of reporters and producers to the "Frontline" series.[5] Frontline/World also streamed stories on its website, which won two Webby awards in 2008 for its original series of online videos called "Rough Cuts". In 2005, the Overseas Press Club of America gave the series its Edward R. Murrow Award for the best TV coverage of international events. The series broke new ground in 2007 by winning two Emmys—one for a broadcast story, "Saddam's Road to Hell" and another for an online video, "Libya: Out of the Shadow".

Awards and results

Other Frontline reports focus on political, social, and criminal justice issues. Ofra Bikel, who has been a producer for Frontline since the first season, has produced a significant number of films on the criminal justice system in the United States. The films have focused on issues ranging from post-conviction DNA testing, the use of drug snitches and mandatory minimum sentencing laws, the plea system, and the use of eye-witness testimony. As a result of the films, 13 people have been released from prison.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the White House requested a copy of "Hunting Bin Laden". In 1999, Frontline had produced this in-depth report about Osama bin Laden and the terrorist network that would come to be known as Al-Qaeda in the wake of the 1998 United States embassy bombings. Following the September 11 attacks, Frontline produced a series of films about Al-Qaeda and the War on Terrorism. In 2002, the series was awarded the DuPont-Columbia gold baton for the seven films.

In 2003, Frontline and The New York Times joined forces on "A Dangerous Business", an investigation into the cast iron pipe making industry and worker safety. OSHA officials credit the documentary and newspaper report with stimulating federal policy change on workplace safety. In 2004, the joint investigation was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

Producer Michael Kirk's Frontline documentaries have won multiple awards. These films include "League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis" (Peabody Award, 2013),[6] "Cheney's Law" (Peabody Award, 2007),[7] "The Lost Year in Iraq" (Emmy Award, 2006), "The Torture Question" (Emmy Award, 2005), "The Kevorkian File" (Emmy Award), and "Waco - The Inside Story" (Peabody Award).[8] [9]

Director Martin Smith has produced dozens of films for Frontline, and won both Emmy and Writers Guild of America Awards. His 2000 film Drug Wars was the winner of the Outstanding Background/Analysis of a Single Current Story Emmy and The George Foster Peabody Award.[10]

Frontline has won a total of 57 Emmys, and 15 Peabodys[11] .[12]

Frontline reports

See also


  1. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (October 13, 2008). "The Past Parts of the Present Campaign". The New York Times. Retrieved July 3, 2010. 
  2. ^ McNamara, Mary (October 14, 2008). "A refreshingly clear 'Choice'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 3, 2010. 
  3. ^ "From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians". PBS Frontline. April 6, 1998. Retrieved 2010-02-17. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ 73rd Annual Peabody Awards, May 2014.
  7. ^ 66th Annual Peabody Awards, May 2007.
  8. ^ 54th Annual Peabody Awards, May 1995.
  9. ^ "About Us: producer michael Kirk". PBS Frontline. 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-17. 
  10. ^ "RAIN media: Awards". RAIN media. 2008. Retrieved 2010-02-17. 
  11. ^ Peabody Award-Winning Documentaries of FRONTLINE, September 2014.
  12. ^ Philiana Ng (2014). "65th Emmy Awards: CBS, PBS Lead News and Documentary Emmy Award Nominees". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2014-01-14. 

External links