A group of journalism students from the University of British Columbia and their professor have won a prestigious Emmy Award for their work on a documentary about electronic waste.

Their film, Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground, which aired on PBS last year, was nominated in two categories and won for outstanding investigative journalism in a news magazine. The news and documentary Emmys were awarded in New York on Monday night.

The documentary followed electronic waste around the globe and addressed concerns about public health, human rights and national security.

In the investigative journalism category, it was up against two CBS productions — one from 60 Minutes and another from 48 Hours — and a story on ABC's Nightline.

The production was funded by the Mindset Social Innovation Foundation, which aims to finance projects that advance social change.

Mindset chief executive Alison Lawton said it's the first time a group of students has ever won an Emmy.

Also earning Emmy trophies were the Globe and Mail online project, Behind the Veil, which won for new approaches to news and documentary programming, and British filmmaker Sacha Gervasi's documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil. The acclaimed portrait of the still-touring, '80s-era Toronto heavy metal band won an Emmy for outstanding arts and culture programming.

Broadcaster CBS picked up a leading seven Emmys, including for Rape in America, a five-month investigation into the low percentage of rape prosecutions across the U.S.

NBC was immediately behind, nabbing a total of six trophies, including for NBC Night News coverage of the emergency plane landing on the Hudson River.

PBS placed third in the Emmy haul, with its five wins including honours for A Death in Tehran, the investigation into the death of Neda Soltan, the young woman killed during the protests following Iran's controversial 2009 presidential election.

The evening also included several special award presentations. Documentary maker Frederick Wiseman received an Emmy for lifetime achievement, while PBS NewsHour was honoured with the chairman's award.

The News and Documentary Emmy Awards are presented by the U.S. National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.