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Remembering Jim Yee

By David Haugland

Editor’s Note—James T. Yee, former executive director of Independent Television Service (ITVS) and longtime advocate for independent media producers, died in March at his home in Northern California, after an 18-month battle with cancer. He was 53. I asked former IDA President and current ITVS Board member David Haugland to share his remembrance of Jim Yee with us.


With the passing in March of ITVS Executive Director Jim Yee, independent filmmakers lost a long-time colleague, trusted friend and passionate advocate.

As a seasoned producer, community organizer and nonprofit executive, Jim lived his life in service in others. He was a Vista volunteer in Nebraska and a middle school teacher in Vermont before turning to public television as his mode of service and communication.

Jim was a co-founder and the first executive director of NAATA (National Asian American Telecommunications Association) and from 1981-1994 tirelessly advanced the profile of Asian Americans on both the small and large screen. In the 1980s he was among those independent producers who fought the good fight that resulted in the US Congress authorizing the creation of the Independent Television Service.

Under Jim's leadership, ITVS moved, the nation's premiere organization dedicated solely to independent producers, into an era of unprecedented productivity and public recognition. In a letter to the field last year Jim reminded us, "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." Jim's call to action inspires us to rededicate ourselves to preserving and advancing independent voices as a vital part of the world's increasingly monopolized and globalized media.

As we mourn Jim's passing, may we respond to his call by carrying forward his vision and commitment to public media in the interest of all in this ever more diverse democracy.

—David Haugland