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News Archive

For immediate release
February 2001

Public Radio Station KCSM 91.1FM To Simulcast PBS Broadcast Of Ken Burns's Jazz With Description
SAN MATEO, CA - Public radio station KCSM 91.1fm in San Mateo, California will simulcast the described version of Ken Burns's Jazz, which will be broadcast on its sister PBS station KCSM-TV 60. The TV broadcast of the 19-hour documentary and the accompanying radio simulcast with description will air in ten parts on February 6-8, 12-15 and 20-22 at 10pm PST. Description for blind and visually impaired audiences was provided by Descriptive Video Service® ®, (DVS®) -- a service of the Boston-based Media Access Group at WGBH.

KCSM 91.1fm's simulcast of PBS's Jazz marks the first time that a DVS-described television program will air on radio. This special radio presentation will enable blind and visually impaired listeners who may not have access to the television SAP feature, or are listening in their cars, to experience the newest Ken Burns documentary. KCSM program director Melanie Berzon (a former WGBH Radio broadcast engineer) says: "There are so many photos, visuals and talking head identifiers [in the documentary] that they [drivers and visually impaired listeners] would be missing." Through the work of the Media Access Group, such visual elements are clarified through description without detracting from the music. "It's a risk," she acknowledges, "But our mission is both entertainment and education-based, so we think it's worth it." DVS Operations Manager Ira Miller adds, "Having the description broadcast on the radio will expose a much wider audience to DVS. It won't just go out to those who select it on their TVs, but to everyone tuning in KCSM during the series' run."

Jazz was originally broadcast on PBS stations nationwide -- including KCSM-TV 60 -- in January 2001, offering full narrative description for blind and visually impaired audiences. Viewers can access narrative descriptions by switching to the Second Audio Program (SAP) channel on properly equipped stereo TVs or VCRs.

This documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns tells the story of the quintessential American art form from its beginnings in the early 1900s to the present day. The series follows the evolution of jazz music -- from the gritty streets of New Orleans to Lincoln Gardens on Chicago's Southside, from Prohibition-era speakeasies to the wide-open clubs of Kansas City and from the elegant Roseland Ballroom in Times Square to the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. "Jazz is much more than a study of this extraordinary American musicŠbut offers a prism through which so much of American history can be seen," says Burns. Six years in the making, Jazz features 75 interviews, more than 500 pieces of music, 2,400 still photographs and more than 2,000 archival film clips -- many of which are rare and never before seen. Narrated by actor Keith David, it also features third-person voices provided by Samuel L. Jackson, Delroy Lindo, Derek Jacobi and Harry Connick Jr., among others.

The first broadcast of PBS's Jazz was popular among both visually impaired and sighted viewers. Dean Denniston, a visually impaired PBS viewer and avid jazz fan, comments, "I must say that I truly enjoyed watching Jazz on PBS, and would not have watched it without audio description. Even though there was quite a bit of narrative, as well as music, having the added description completed the program for me." The average major market rating for the first eight programs of the ten-part series was 3.6, which is 80% higher than the PBS prime-time average rating of 2.0. "Major markets" refer to the 49 television markets that represent two-thirds of all US TV households.

Television critics praised the series as well. The New York Times wrote of Jazz: "In it, many jazz musicians and authors speak with authority, passion, intelligence and great persuasion. But one thing we can be certain of is that there will be thousands of people who will hear in this documentary, for the first time, a great performance...[and] some may develop a lifelong interest in the many styles of jazz," while The Eagle-Tribune (Boston Area) called it "a superior production that continually astounds and delights as it takes viewers on a century-long journey of musical improvisation."

Founded in 1964, KCSM-FM has a growing audience of more than 200,000 listeners in the San Francisco Bay Area, ranking it among the top 35 "most listened to" non-commercial radio stations in the United States (according to Arbitron). An affiliate of Public Radio International and National Public Radio, KCSM is the only station in the Bay Area with a 24-hour jazz format. KCSM produces a variety of jazz-oriented programs, the hosts of which include veteran jazz musicians, seasoned jazz broadcasters and educators.

The Media Access Group at WGBH , with offices in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, is a non-profit service of the WGBH Educational Foundation, home of Boston's PBS station. The service group includes Descriptive Video Service (DVS), which has made television, film and video more accessible to blind and visually impaired audiences since 1990, as well as The Caption Center, the world's first captioning agency, founded in 1972, and the CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), a research and development entity that works to make existing and emerging technologies more accessible to these under-served audiences. Members of the Media Access Group's collective staff represent the leading resources and experts in their fields.

Press contact:
Ira Miller
(617) 300-3421
ira_miller@wgbh.org


















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