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Media Projects: Development & Production Grants

Grant: Media Projects — Development Grants and Production Grants
Agency: National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
Division: Division of Public Programs
Deadline: August 12, 2015 for projects beginning April 2016.

Description: Media Projects (formerly known as America's Media Makers) grants support three types of projects: interactive digital media projects; film and television projects; and radio projects. Interactive digital media may be websites, games, mobile applications, virtual environments, streaming video, podcasts, or other digital formats. Film and television projects may be single programs or a series addressing significant figures, events, or ideas and drawing their content from humanities scholarship. The programs must be intended for national distribution. The program welcomes projects ranging in length from short-form to broadcast-length video. Radio projects may involve single programs, limited series, or segments within an ongoing program. They may also develop new humanities content to augment existing radio programming or add greater historical background or humanities analysis to the subjects of existing programs. They may be intended for regional or national distribution.

NEH encourages projects that feature multiple formats to engage the public in the exploration of humanities ideas. Proposed projects might include complementary components that expand or deepen the audience's understanding of a subject: for example, museum exhibitions, book/film discussion programs, or other formats that engage audiences in new ways. Media Projects grants may not, however, be used to support programs' general operating costs.

There are three types of America's Media Makers awards: Development Grants, Production Grants and Chairman's Special Awards.

Development Grants enable media producers to collaborate with scholars to develop humanities content and format and to prepare programs for production. Grants should result in a script or a design document and should also yield a detailed plan for outreach and public engagement in collaboration with a partner organization or organizations.

Production Grants support the production and distribution of digital projects, films, television programs, radio programs and related programs that promise to engage the public.

Chairman's Special Award projects are exceptionally complex and would be of compelling interest to the general public; they have the capacity to examine important humanities ideas in new ways and promise to reach extremely large audiences. These goals can often be accomplished through combining a variety of program formats, forming creative collaborations among diverse institutions, and significantly expanding the scope and reach of the project. Note that Chairman's Special Awards are offered only at the production stage, but not at the development stage.

All projects should:

  • Build on sound humanities scholarship.
  • Deepen public understanding of significant humanities questions.
  • Involve appropriate media professionals, especially a producer, director, writer, or interactive designer.
  • Involve humanities scholars and in all phases of development and production.
  • Appeal to broad regional or national audiences.
  • Approach a subject analytically and interpretively through an appropriate variety of perspectives.
  • Employ appealing and accessible program formats that will actively engage the general public in learning.
  • Encourage dialogue and discussion.

The Division of Public Programs encourages projects that examine connections between the humanities and science and technology. The humanities offer significant insight into scientific discovery, scientific thinking, and the historical, cultural, and ethical implications of various technologies. Projects might provide the historical and social contexts for scientific developments, to illuminate how science is produced and scientific information is consumed. Alternatively, projects might analyze how technological innovation helps reshape cultures and understandings of our place in the world. Projects might also discuss the ethical and political implications of scientific and technological developments. Proposals must demonstrate sound humanities and science scholarship. Projects must involve collaboration between the project team and advisers drawn from the humanities and the sciences.

Applications that respond to NEH's Bridging Cultures initiative are welcome. Such projects could focus on cultures internationally or within the United States. International projects might seek to enlarge Americans' understanding of other places and times, as well as other perspectives and intellectual traditions. American projects might explore the great variety of cultural influences on, and myriad subcultures within, American society. These projects might also investigate how Americans have approached and attempted to surmount seemingly unbridgeable cultural divides, or examine the ideals of civility and civic discourse. In connection with a focus on civic discourse, projects might explore the role of women in America's civic life as well as the civic role of women in other cultures and regions of the world.

The Media Projects program supports the creation of curricular materials and educational resources that are components of larger projects for public audiences. NEH's EDSITEment website is a respected source of educational materials for the classroom, and applicants are encouraged to create resources that would be appropriate for publishing on EDSITEment or promotion through EDSITEment.

Fit for public broadcasting: Public media stations can use funding from this program to plan or produce a television, radio or digital media project that encourages learning, civic engagement and discussion. Projects can build on previously funded projects, or they can be new. These projects should appeal to people of all ages. Television stations that decide to apply for this grant must ensure that their project will be nationally distributed. Because NEH is looking for large-scale multi-dimensional projects, stations may want to find project collaborators. Radio stations can submit proposals for projects with regional or national distribution. Public broadcasting stations have received funding under this program before for the following projects:

  • In 2012, WNET received a $35,499 grant to support the production of two interactive historical games designed for classroom use on an electronic tablet.
  • In 2012, WQED received a $704,000 award to produce a 90-minute television documentary about the life and work of playwright August Wilson.
  • In 2012, Twin Cities Public Television received a $400,000 grant for the production of a four-part television series accompanied by a companion website, digital engagement strategy, PBS NewsHour's Student Reporting Labs in ten cities, and a series of high school debates developed, implemented and webcast by the National Constitution Center.
  • In 2012, WNED received a $500,000 grant to support the production of a 90-minute documentary film and associated website on the life and career of Frederick Law Olmsted.
  • In 2009, WETA received a $75,000 development grant to fund the development of two one-hour scripts for an eight-part film series to be broadcast nationally. Their project, The Latino Americans, also includes a companion radio series on National Public Radio and an accompanying website that examines the history of Latino Americans through the lens of immigration. The proposal for this project can be downloaded below.
  • In 2009, WGBH received a $350,000 production grant for the production of a two-hour television program with accompanying website for The American Experience that examines the life of Robert E. Lee. WGBH also received a $300,000 outright production grant for a two-hour documentary on the history of the construction of the Panama Canal for PBS’s American Experience.
  • In 2009, Connecticut Public Broadcasting received a $375,000 award to fund the post-production of a 28-minute pilot television program for PBS and the development of detailed treatments for an additional four episodes, a Web 2.0 interactive website, a curriculum-based teacher's website, a retail DVD and a graphic novel examining the early life of Frederick Douglass.
  • In 2009, Public Radio International and WNYC received a $300,000 award to produce four hour-long radio programs and five shorter segments on iconic works of American culture for PRI's Studio 360, together with development and production of digital companion materials.

Eligibility: Any U.S. nonprofit organization with IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status is eligible, as are state and local governmental agencies.

Anticipated funding: In past competitions, NEH awarded an average of three development grants and six production grants per competition. Awards for development grants range from $40,000 to $75,000 and are usually made for a period of six to twelve months. Basic development grants of up to $40,000 are available for activities that include collaboration with scholars to refine the humanities content, undertake archival research and conduct preliminary interviews. Awards of up to $75,000 are available for the scripting of a radio or television program or the creation of a prototype for a digital media project, and for more complex projects that would have exceptionally wide reach to audiences through collaboration with multiple institutional partners or through a wide-ranging combination of diverse formats.

Awards for production grants last for one to three years and may range from $100,000 to $650,000. In rare circumstances, Chairman’s Special Awards of up to $1 million are available for large-scale, collaborative, multiformat projects that will reach broad portions of the public.

Although cost sharing is not required, NEH is rarely able to support the full costs of projects approved for funding. In most cases, Media Projects grants cover no more than 50 - 60 percent of project costs.

How to apply: Applications for this program must be submitted at Online submission requires registration, a process that usually takes three to five business days but can take as long as four weeks. Be sure to visit and begin registering well in advance of the deadline. Applicants are encouraged to submit draft proposals, via e-mail attachment, at least six weeks before the deadline.

Program Notice: Development Grants
Program Notice: Production Grants
Development Grants Website
Production Grants Website
Sample Application from TPT
Sample Application from WGBH
Production Grant Awards 2011-2014
Development Grant Awards 2011-2014
Watch the Grant Center's archives webinar from June 2014.
Applicants are encouraged to consult the successful production grant proposal that WGBH submitted for their Freedom Riders project and the successful production grant proposal that Twin Cities Public Television submitted for their Slavery by Another Name project.

This Grant Center profile is not an official federal document but a brief synopsis of a federal program. Be sure to consult the program website and material as the authoritative source for specific details about the program and application process.


National Endowment for the Humanities: Funding for Digital Projects
Join us July 30, 2015 for an update from Perry Collins, the National Endowment for the Humanities' Senior Program Officer in the Office of Digital Humanities.
American Graduate Day 2015 Funding Opportunity: Live Studio Remotes and Mini Documentaries (Webinar #2)
This webinar, held May 28, 2015, was the second of two webinars on American Graduate Day 2015 and focused on Live Studio Remotes and Mini-Documentaries grants.


Read the Grant Center for Public Media's June 2015 newsletter.
Read the Grant Center for Public Media's April 2015 newsletter.