James Yee

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James Yee served as the Executive Director of the San Francisco based Independent Television Service (ITVS) from 1994-2000. ITVS, which receives its funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), was established in 1991 by Congress to increase the diversity of public television programming, and to address the needs of underserved audiences, particularly minorities and children. ITVS is one of the most active funders and presenters of independent programming in the U.S. and its innovative, thought-provoking shows have been watched by millions. Yee was a consummate and passionate advocate for ITVS and the independent producing community, leading the organization through a landscape of shifting visual formats and congressional funding cuts, which were restored largely because of his diplomacy and the confidence placed in him by CPB. Yee was among the original group of producers who advocated for ITVS's formation. His leadership and aesthetic vision heralded a period of unprecedented productivity and accolades for the organization, including numerous awards. Prior to serving as Executive Director of ITVS, Yee was the first Executive Director and a co-founder of the National Asian American Telecommunications Association (NAATA). In his capacity as Executive Director of NAATA from 1981-1994, Yee raised the profile of Asian Americans on both the small and large screen. NAATA is one of five minority consortia funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and is the only national organization solely dedicated to getting Asian American media seen by the broadest audience possible. NAATA funds and presents Asian American programming on public television, distributes it nationwide and produces the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. Yee served on the Gore Commission on Digital Television, a 20-member working group appointed by President Bill Clinton to address the digital transition of the television medium over the next ten years, and the PBS Satellite Interconnection Committee. He was a former board member of the San Francisco Film Commission, Pacifica Radio Foundation, Western Public Radio, KPFA Radio, and Film Arts Foundation. Yee was a visionary who inspired his colleagues to action. In his letter to the field, published last spring in ITVS's magazine Buzzwords, he said, "If we want to hear independent voices in a rapidly monopolized media world, then weóITVS, public television stations, producers and Congressóhave to do it ourselves. Public TV is public space, and public space is in danger of becoming a commodity. Engaging in the battle for the hearts and minds of the public is essential. ITVS will have to re-politicize itself. I invite and implore you to do the same. Let's get out there, get informed and get politicized." He was a trusted ally, a formidable but fair adversary to those who dragged their feet in the campaign to diversify the images seen on American television and a man who thought on his feet. Yee was a seasoned producer, and in 1997 received a national Emmy award for "a.k.a. Don Bonus," a documentary co-directed by Spencer Nakasako and Sokly Ny, which aired on PBS. Other projects Yee produced include "Freckled Rice," a documentary directed by Steven Ning, "The Kiss," a short narrative directed by Philip Kan Gotanda, and the radio program "The Last Game Show," written and directed by Norman Jayo. Yee also served as a consultant to Richard Gordon and Carma Hinton on their documentary "All Under Heaven." At WGBH, Yee was associate producer of Rebop, a multicultural teen series focusing on adolescent issues and passages. As part of this series, he co-produced "Vivian," Bibiana" and "Ringo." Yee was also the recipient of the Steve Tatsukawa Award, given by Visual Communications to honor those who have made a significant contribution to Asian American media, and the Asian Cine Vision Award. Prior to tackling public television, Yee worked in community organizing, was a VISTA volunteer in rural Nebraska, where he focused on tenant organizing and childcare, and was a middle school teacher at the Prospect School in Vermont.. Yee was born in the Bronx, New York. He graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson, received a master's degree in Early Childhood Education from Antioch Graduate School of Education, and was an Urban Studies Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). -ITVS