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Documentaries On TV

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Can't Find Docs in Theaters? Try TV:

While waiting for local theaters to respond to your requests for increased nonfiction programming, you might as well stay at home and watch documentaries on TV. Several doc-heavy channels regularly commission nonfiction features and shorts, or buy the broadcast rights to independently made documentaries--most often films currently on the festivals circuit--and show them before they're available on DVD.

The TV channels listed here are those that program documentaries on a regular basis. Because they also air narrative features, you may have to browse their Websites to find scheduled documentaries and broadcast times.

PBS - Public Broadcasting Service:

The stations that operate under the PBS banner regularly broadcast documentaries in well known series such a Nature and Independent Lens. Many documentaries have their world or American broadcast debuts on PBS. PBS is not a cable or premium network, so there are no charges for viewing films on its affiliate stations. You can get a good idea of what's being shown by checking the PBS Website, but also always check you local TV listings for exact dates and times of broadcast. During Summer 2008, PBS presents encore broadcasts of audience favorites from the Nature series.

HBO - Home Box Office:

HBO, a premium cable channel known for its blockbuster dramatic series, also includes documentary films in its monthly programming, for which there is a flat rate fee. HBO commissions documentaries about a wide range of subjects, including sports, the arts, politics and profiles of famous people and events. You can check for program schedules on the HBO Website.

IFC - Independent Film Channel:

Programming on this cable channel includes excellent documentaries such as At the Death House Door (2008) and Rosie Perez's autobiographical Yo Soy Boricua Pa'que tu lo Sepas! (2006), among others. Unfortunately, the IFC Website doesn't indicate nonfiction film scheduling separately, but you can get descriptions of some IFC documentaries here.

DOC - Documentary Film Channel:

It's no surprise that you can find a great range of docs on the Documentary Film Channel Website. You'll find the current schedule here, along with good descriptions of the films. Unfortunately, the Documentary Film Channel isn't carried on all digital cable systems, so you'll have to check yours to see whether you have access. If not, you can petition your digital cable system to have it added.

History Channel:

The history channel provides diverse and continual nonfiction programming about the people and events that have shaped U.S. and world history. Check the daily program schedule here.

Sundance Channel:

Airing documentary series and stand alone nonfiction features and shorts, the Sundance Channel's programming includes Big Ideas For A Small Planet and Jennifer Fox's Flying: Confessions of a Fearless Woman, among others. For the daily program schedule, click here.

You Can Influence Documentaries Programming on TV:

Websites for all of these channels are interactive. You can comment on programming and make comments and requests, and sometimes vote for the films you'd most like to see.

The Websites also feature online shops where you can purchase DVDs of documentaries you may have missed or wish to see again.

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