Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Unlucky Thirteen

Channel Thirteen, the NY PBS affiliate, hasn’t been lucky for jazz fans in New York. They are planning to show the new PBS jazz show Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis on Thursday nights at 12:30 a.m., virtually precluding any New Yorker under the age of 18 gaining any exposure to jazz through the program. I posted on IAJE’s letter writing campaign on behalf of a better time slot. After two weeks, I haven’t heard any response from my fax. No form letters or generic e-mails. I hope other IAJE members have received better responses.

Thirteen’s slogan is “if 13 didn’t do it, who would?” However, I wonder how true that is. The bulk of Thirteen’s primetime schedule is dominated by current events, science & nature programming, and British comedy & mysteries, the kind which you can readily find on CNN, Fox News, Discovery Channel, A&E, and Animal Planet. Not unworthy, but not unique to PBS. Yes, not everyone has cable, and that is a consideration.

However, there is a dearth of performing arts programming on both PBS and Cable. This week on Thirteen there is a program called Setting the Stage on Thur., profiling prominent figures from the theater, but it is not performance.

I enjoy Foyle’s War on Mystery, but I can’t defend it as tax-payer subsidized PBS programming. You can make that argument for excellent performing arts programming. Yet for serious jazz, symphony, ballet, and blues performances, there’s not much love on Thirteen. This is exactly the sort of programming PBS should be presenting free to audiences that could not otherwise afford to experience it, but Thirteen pushes Legends of Jazz past the midnight hour. Disappointing. It makes one question the value and expense of PBS, or at least the local affiliate, if won't live up to its own mandate.