Frontline (U.S. TV series)

Created by David Fanning
Narrated by Will Lyman (1983–present)
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 600+ (list of episodes)
Producer(s) WGBH Boston
Production company(s) WGBH-TV
Original network Public Broadcasting Service
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Original release January 17, 1983 (1983-01-17) – present
External links

Frontline (styled by the program as FRONTLINE) is a public affairs television program which 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 debut of the series, there have been more than 500 films released. Traditionally viewed via the medium of television, today the programs are available on the web.


The program debuted in 1983, with NBC anchorwoman Jessica Savitch as its host, but Savitch died later in the first season. PBS NewsHour's 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 special edition aired during the lead-up to the presidential election every four years, focusing on the Democratic and Republican candidates contending for the office of President of the United States. "The Choice 2016" is the current installment, airing on September 27, 2016, featuring Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.[1] The previous version 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.

A prior 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,"[2] and The Los Angeles Times, which labeled it "refreshingly clear" and "informative".[3]

Most Frontline reports are an hour in length, but some are extended to 90 minutes, 2 hours, or beyond. Frontline also produces and transmits such occasional specials as From Jesus to Christ, The Farmer's Wife, and Country Boys.[4]

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 installments of the series since its inception in 1983.[5] 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, which is solely responsible for its content. WGBH is the creator of The Documentary Consortium, with another 4 PBS stations, including WNET in New York and KCTS in Seattle.

In 2015, the creator and founding executive producer of Frontline, David Fanning, retired after more than 32 years as executive producer of the series, and Raney Aronson-Rath succeeded him. Fanning, however, remains editor-at-large of Frontline.


Frontline/World is a spin-off series from Frontline, first transmitted on May 23, 2002, which was transmitted four to eight times a year on Frontline till it was canceled 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 was: Stories from a small planet.

Initially a co-production of WGBH, Boston and KQED, San Francisco, Frontline/World was later based in part at the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, where the program's producers recruited a new generation of reporters and producers to the Frontline series.[6]

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 of these was for a broadcast story, "Saddam's Road to Hell," and the other was 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.

The crew of FRONTLINE's "United States of Secrets" (2014), at the 74th Annual Peabody Awards

In 2003, Frontline and The New York Times joined forces on "A Dangerous Business," an investigation led by reporter Lowell Bergman 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),[7] "Cheney's Law" (Peabody Award, 2007),[8] "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).[9] [10]

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.[11]

Other notable producers of multiple Frontline documentaries have included Sherry Jones, Marian Marzynski, Miri Navasky, Karen O'Connor, June Cross, Neil Docherty, Stephen Talbot, Raney Aronson, Rachel Dretzin and Rick Young.

As of July 2016, Frontline has won a total of 75 Emmy Awards[12] and 18 Peabody Awards.[13]

Frontline reports

See also


  1. "The Choice 2016" at, accessed 27 Sept. 2016.
  2. Genzlinger, Neil (October 13, 2008). "The Past Parts of the Present Campaign". The New York Times. Retrieved July 3, 2010.
  3. McNamara, Mary (October 14, 2008). "A refreshingly clear 'Choice'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 3, 2010.
  4. "From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians". PBS Frontline. April 6, 1998. Retrieved 2010-02-17.
  5. "Will Lyman :: Actor". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  6. "'Frontline/World' video journalists bring world to Web". SFGate. 11 October 2007. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  7. 73rd Annual Peabody Awards, May 2014.
  8. 66th Annual Peabody Awards, May 2007.
  9. 54th Annual Peabody Awards, May 1995.
  10. "About Us: producer michael Kirk". PBS Frontline. 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-17.
  11. "RAIN media: Awards". Rain Media. 2008. Retrieved 2010-02-17.
  12. Paddonio, Patrice (26 April 2016). "FRONTLINE Wins Six Emmy Awards". FRONTLINE (Press release). Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  13. Paddonio, Patrice (29 September 2015). "FRONTLINE Wins Peabody Award for "ISIS in Afghanistan"". FRONTLINE (Press release). Retrieved 1 August 2016.

External links

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