Paula Kerger

Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS, speaks Friday during the PBS Winter 2020 TCA Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision via AP

PASADENA, Calif. — PBS will mark its 50th year with an exploration of what it means to be an American in a rancorous period.

“At a time when our country feels perhaps the fabric is becoming a bit frayed, we felt it was important for us to step back and really look at who we are,” PBS chief executive Paula Kerger told a TV critics meeting Friday.

Her perception in traveling throughout the country, she said, “is what binds us together is so much more apparent than what separates us.”

“PBS American Portrait” is the network’s most ambitious multi-platform project yet and aims to foster a nationwide discussion about America and its people, said programming chief Perry Simon. It will encompass a variety of working parts, starting with video, photo and other content from the public and including a web miniseries, local and national art exhibits and a documentary series airing in January 2021.

Participants are being asked to share their stories, filling in the blanks for such “conversation starters” as “I was raised to believe” and “What keeps me up at night,” PBS said in announcing the project.

Americans can submit content on PBS’ website, with community and local leaders called on to encourage people in their circle to share their stories.

The digital miniseries will launch in spring 2020, available to PBS Digital Studios’ subscribers on platforms including YouTube and Facebook Watch.

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