CPB Funds 37 Public Media Stations Engaging Communities with Ken Burns’s ‘Country Music’

Public TV, radio stations forge local connections via PBS docuseries

July 25, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 25, 2019) -- The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is providing $366,200 in grants to 37 public radio and television media stations across the nation to engage communities in the upcoming Ken Burns documentary series “Country Music.” The grants allow stations to hold events and produce local content to connect the new series with music and storytelling in their communities.

“Country music is America’s music. Its storytelling speaks to our hearts across the country, sharing truths about family, community, and our nation,” said Pat Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “Through these grants, we are helping public media stations leverage the power of Ken Burns’s ‘Country Music’ to bring together new partners and explore how country music has shaped local voices and storytelling for generations.”

The eight-part, 16-hour documentary, produced by Burns and his longtime colleagues Dayton Duncan and Julie Dunfey, chronicles the highs and lows of country music’s early days, from southern Appalachia’s songs of struggle, heartbreak and faith to the rollicking Western swing of Texas to California’s honky-tonks and Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. The film follows the evolution of country music over the course of the 20th century as it eventually emerges to become “America’s music.” 

The grants will help fund a wide range of activities such as preview screenings, panel discussions, concerts featuring local talent, and local content for broadcast and podcast programming. They include:

  • Fresno-based ValleyPBS, which broadcasts to Bakersfield, home of the rock-influenced “Bakersfield Sound,” held the ValleyPBS Kids Country Music Talent Search to select young local musicians to serve as opening acts for Ken Burns’s Country Music Roadshow events in Fresno tonight and in Bakersfield on July 26. The Roadshow is a 30-city national tour featuring preview screenings and discussions with “Country Music” filmmakers Burns, Duncan and Dunfey.
  • WUOT-FM in Knoxville, Tennessee, will promote “Country Music” in five podcasts and special editions of its local programs “Studio 865” and “Dialogue.” The station will also hold a free concert presenting the history of country music in Knoxville, featuring two songs the station has commissioned local musicians Mic Harrison and Trisha Gene Brady to write and perform. The concert will be held on September 6 and broadcast on WUOT and WDVX public radio.
  • West Virginia Public Broadcasting is screening In Tune: A Community of Musicians,” a documentary produced by WVPB filmmaker Russ Barbour as a companion to “Country Music,” in Clay County, Morgantown and Charleston. “In Tune” examines old-time music (aka Hillbilly music) passed down through the generations in Appalachia, particularly in Clay County. The program airs September 14 on West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
  • KPTS-TV in Wichita is producing “Kansas Country,” a 30-minute documentary highlighting singers, songwriters, musicians, DJs and others who’ve played pivotal roles in the growth of country music throughout Kansas. The station plans events in Wichita, Hutchinson and Salina featuring music performances and excerpt screenings of both “Kansas Country” and “Country Music.”
  • Public radio station WFAE-FM in Charlotte, North Carolina, is hosting a live taping of its award-winning music podcast Amplifier, followed by a preview screening and live performance with the local musicians on September 4.
  • Louisiana Public Broadcasting is holding preview screenings in Baton Rouge and Shreveport. At the Shreveport event, Louisiana Public Broadcasting will gather stories from people who attended events at the famed Louisiana Hayride, which gave rise to stars like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Kitty Wells, and Elvis Presley, and share those oral histories on a “Country Music” web page.
  • New Hampshire PBS is holding a Ken Burns Country Music Day on August 14 to celebrate the series as well as NHPBS’ 60th anniversary. Events include an activity at the Cheshire Children’s Museum in which families can make guitars out of recycled materials, a photo exhibit at the Thorne Sagendorph Art Gallery at Keene State College, plus screenings and panel discussions with Burns, Duncan and Dunfey.

Grants to the 30 public television stations are administered by WETA, the producing station for the series on PBS. CPB is directly funding grants to public radio stations, many of which are exploring country music themes in locally produced programs and podcasts.  

“With these grants, stations will leverage the power of ‘Country Music’ to bring together new partners and tap into new audiences beyond the broadcast,” Harrison said. “Whether through storytelling events, screenings, classroom outreach and more, stations will bring to light the rich histories and experiences of their own communities.”

“Country Music” will stream for free and be available on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast. 

Funding for “Country Music” was provided by Bank of America, the Annenberg Foundation, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, Belmont University, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Rosalind P. Walter and by members of ‘The Better Angels Society,’ including: The Blavatnik Family Foundation, the Schwartz/Reisman Foundation, the Pfeil Foundation, Diane and Hal Brierley, John and Catherine Debs, the Fullerton Family Charitable Fund, the Perry and Donna Golkin Family Foundation, Jay Alix and Una Jackman, Mercedes T. Bass, Fred and Donna Seigel, Gilchrist and Amy Berg, James R. Berdell Foundation, David Bonderman, Deborah P. and Jonathan T. Dawson, Senator Bill and Tracy Frist, Susan and David Kreisman, Rocco and Debby Landesman, Lillian Lovelace, John and Leslie McQuown, Mindy's Hope Foundation, the Segal Family Foundation, Michelle Smith.   Major funding was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS.

“Country Music” is a production of Florentine Films and WETA, Washington, DC. Directed by Ken Burns, written by Dayton Duncan, and produced by Duncan, Julie Dunfey and Burns.

About CPB
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,500 locally owned and operated public television and radio stations nationwide. CPB is also the largest single source of funding for research, technology and program development for public radio, television and related online services. For more information, visit cpb.org, follow us on Twitter @CPBmedia, Facebook and LinkedIn and subscribe for other updates.

About PBS
PBS, with more than 330 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches over 120 million people through television and 26 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS’ premier children’s media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV – including a 24/7 channel, online at pbskids.org, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on TwitterFacebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at pbs.org/pressroom or by following PBS Pressroom on Twitter.

About WETA
WETA Washington, DC, is the second largest producing station of new content for public television in the United States. WETA productions and co-productions include PBS NewsHour, Washington Week, The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize, The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, Latino Americans and The Italian Americans; documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including The Civil War, Baseball, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History and The Vietnam War; and productions by Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., including Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Seasons 3 & 4), Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise and Africa’s Great Civilizations. WETA presentations include Martha Stewart’s Cooking School, Pati’s Mexican Table, Sara’s Weeknight Meals, Globe Trekker and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO. The WETA studios and administrative offices are located in Arlington, Virginia. More information on WETA and its programs and services is available at www.weta.org. On social media, visit www.facebook.com/wetatvfm on Facebook or follow @WETAtvfm on Twitter.

Public media stations receiving “Country Music” engagement grants:

  • Arkansas Educational Television Network (Conway, AR)
  • Alabama Public Television (Montgomery, AL)
  • Alaska Public Media (Anchorage, AK)
  • Basin PBS (Permian Basin, TX)
  • Blue Ridge PBS (Roanoke, VA)
  • East Tennessee PBS (Knoxville/Bristol, TN)
  • Georgia Public Broadcasting (Atlanta, GA)
  • KCPT-TV (Kansas City, MO)
  • KEET-TV (Eureka, CA)
  • Kentucky Educational Television (Lexington, KY)
  • KMUW-FM (Wichita, KS)
  • KOSU-FM (Stillwater, OK)
  • KPTS-TV (North Wichita, KS)
  • KTTZ-TV/FM (Lubbock, TX)
  • KUED-TV (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • KUNC-FM Colorado Sound (Greeley, CO)
  • Louisiana Public Broadcasting (Baton Rouge, LA)
  • Mississippi Public Broadcasting (Jackson, MS)
  • New Hampshire PBS (Durham, NH)
  • Panhandle PBS (Amarillo, TX)
  • Pioneer Public (Granite Falls, MN)
  • SCETV (Columbia, SC)
  • South Dakota Public Broadcasting (Vermillion, SD)
  • UNC-TV (Research Triangle, NC)
  • ValleyPBS (Fresno, CA)
  • WCTE-TV (Cookeville, TN)
  • West Virginia Public Broadcasting (Charleston, WV)
  • WFAE-FM (Charlotte, NC)
  • WITF-TV (Harrisburg, PA)
  • WLJT-TV (Lexington, TN)
  • WLVT-PBS 39 (Bethlehem, PA)
  • WPLN Nashville Public Radio (Nashville, TN)
  • WQPT/Quad Cities PBS (Moline, IL)
  • WSRE-TV (Pensacola, FL)
  • WTIU-TV (Bloomington, IN)
  • WUNC-FM (Research Triangle, NC)
  • WUOT-FM (Knoxville, TN)