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Media Advisory


NSF PA/M 03-25 - May 8, 2003

NSF Invites Applications for Television Documentary Production at South Pole, Antarctica

Application Deadline: May 27, 2003

The National Science Foundation (NSF), the federal agency that manages the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP), is accepting written applications from U.S. based professional producers or broadcasters for the exclusive right to produce a complete one-hour television production highlighting the integrated science, construction, and year-round operations at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. A new central living facility—the station's life support system—is currently under construction and will be completed in 2006. World-class facilities for astronomy, astrophysics, and atmospheric sciences are also housed at South Pole Station.


Since 1956, the National Science Foundation has supported the conduct of research at the geographic South Pole. The existing facility went into service in 1975. Designed for a population of 33, it is no longer capable of supporting modern science. The new facility will be able to house as many as 150 men and women (including scientists, technicians, and support personnel) during the austral summer. The science being conducted here is important. It's not being done anywhere else. The construction taking place is in one of the world's most inhospitable places-an unequalled engineering feat.



NSF is the sole operator of the South Pole Station. In return for free logistics support in Antarctica and at South Pole Station, the NSF is inviting a U.S. production company or U.S. broadcast/cable network to secure independent production funding and produce a television program depicting the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station as a place being modernized and rebuilt for cutting-edge research in the 21st century, and a place where significant and unique research is being conducted now. NSF requests that the program be carried on a U.S. television broadcast or cable network and that raw footage be provided to NSF upon request, as described below.


Ownership will belong to funding company. NSF shall have the right to review and approve for technical accuracy the concept/treatment, rough cut, and the final script prior to recording.

After initial telecast, NSF will receive a copy of the program for internal use. NSF will also have a nonexclusive, nontransferable, irrevocable, royalty-free license to exercise or have exercised for or on behalf of the U.S. throughout the world all the exclusive rights provided by copyright. The license, however, will not include the right to sell copies of the copyrighted works to the public.

The producer will make available at no cost to NSF broadcast-quality copies of any original raw footage as may be requested, both prior and subsequent to completion of the documentary. Producer will hold copyright to all material, but will grant to NSF the rights to use such footage in news releases and b-roll packages offered to broadcasters, as well as possible non-commercial products for educational use. NSF will pay dubbing charges.

Additionally, as events warrant, producer will permit crew to devote up to two shooting days in Antarctica per year (two days in 2004, two days in 2005) to "cover" activities of NSF's choosing and immediately provide all related footage to NSF, whether or not those activities will be featured in the documentary. This footage may be used by NSF to create video news releases or b-roll packages offered to broadcasters.


Due to constraints on South Pole support facilities, applicants are asked to submit information on the minimum number of shooting days they require at the pole. A production crew of two individuals could be accommodated for up to six days per season (November-January) during 2003-2005, perhaps split into two segments per season. Also note that due to uncertain weather conditions and extremely limited transportation options, all scheduling in Antarctica is inherently an estimation. (Precise available shooting dates are to be determined.)

In addition, opportunities to shoot at McMurdo Station may be provided. These opportunities would provide for shooting days over and above the number of shooting days at South Pole.


Applications will focus on:

1. Full funding commitment from a national broadcast or cable venue
2. The production team's proven ability to report on science in remote areas
3. Producer's past science- or engineering-oriented programs carried nationally via broadcast or cable
4. A proven ability to create compelling documentaries on scientific subjects for a general audience
5. Awards for past programs on scientific or technical subjects
6. Acceptance of terms described above regarding NSF approvals and rights to use footage
7. Anticipated ratings and demographic information
8. Producer's concept for the project, including the anticipated balance between treatment of South Pole Station construction and the scientific work being conducted at the pole. The concept may also include an examination of the science and engineering at McMurdo Station
9. Proposed shooting schedule
10. Broadcaster's anticipated initial airdate (approximate)

Applications will also include information on:

1. Approximate weight of equipment to accompany production crews (minimizing weight and crew size is important to NSF)
2. Support required from NSF at South Pole (vehicles, power, people [full-time or otherwise], etc.)
3. Specific communication needs

A selection committee of USAP science and logistics personnel, media officers from NSF's Office of Legislative and Public Affairs, and individuals from the video production/broadcast industry reviews all proposals and makes the final selection of one production company or network. U.S. based applicants will receive preference in selection.


NSF furnishes at no cost: cold-weather clothing solely for use in the field, access to scientists and other field personnel, and round-trip transportation from Christchurch, New Zealand to Antarctica, as well as housing, transportation and food in Antarctica. Other expenses—round-trip transportation and accommodations between the U.S. and Christchurch, New Zealand, as well as travel to NSF headquarters in Arlington, Va. for pre-trip planning—are paid for by the funding company.


Those going to Antarctica must pass comprehensive physical and dental exams conducted at their own expense by their personal physicians and dentists using instructions provided by USAP. Certain medical and dental conditions may disqualify a candidate from visiting Antarctica.


Contact Cliff Braverman (703-292-7756, at NSF as soon as possible to express interest. Then send a written application responding to the above points by the deadline. Evidence of a firm commitment for full funding on prospective network/cable letterhead is required.


NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of nearly $5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 30,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 10,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $200 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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National Science Foundation
Office of Legislative and Public Affairs
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22230, USA
Tel: 703-292-8070
FIRS: 800-877-8339 | TDD: 703-292-5090

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