WBRH 88.3 – Reading for the Blind and Print Handicapped (their words)
http://www.i-55.com/wrbhlive/wrbh.asx (live stream)
In the age of podcasts, this Reading for the Blind station manages to be both a throwback and a natural fit for blind and younger, fully sighted audiences alike. This is mostly because the majority of the programming is really not so different from your average amateur podcast. (The production values are a little worse than your more professional podcasts.) I’d assumed that stations like this one existed all over the country, but according to at least one undated NBC report found on the station’s website, this is the only reading-for-the-blind station to be found on an FM dial in the United States.
For those not familiar with the concept then, a series of volunteers come in and read articles from newspapers, magazines, and your occasional bestseller. Late night is filled with an assortment of radio shows from what I’m pretty sure is a bygone era. I mean I don’t think they’re newly produced. Where they come from I’m not entirely sure.
The commitment to reading the news unfiltered extends to the rules governing the volunteers. They are not allowed to offer any commentary on what they are reading. In fact, they’re not allowed to say anything at all outside of what they’re reading. There is only one reader, a woman who reads coupons, who is allowed offer her own insights. They tend to be animated.
While I can’t speak to the effect the station has on New Orleans’ blind population, I can at least offer that sitting back and listening to a stranger read the newspaper–poor diction, mistakes, throat clearing and all–is a strangely soothing experience. But not for too long.
Of further interest:
– The station also has shows in Vietnamese and Spanish.
– Even though the local daily paper, The Times Picayune, is changing its own circulation to three days a week, WBRH will still read articles from the website seven days a week.
– So sure was I of my own stentorian voice—this notion has been beaten out of me within the past week—I once looked into volunteering for the station. I found out that it’s a very hard gig to get and some of the volunteers have been there for 20 to 30 years.