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November 20, 2001

Press Release

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace Debuts on FOX Sunday Evening

Descriptive Narration Brings The Force Home to Millions with Vision Loss

BOSTON, MA - The much anticipated network television premiere of Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace (TM) marks yet another major television milestone: the first commercial network broadcast of descriptive narration for viewers who are blind or visually impaired. Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace airs Sunday, November 25 (7:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. The movie will also air with closed captions for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Following the movie, FOX will broadcast a special "mockumentary" entitled R2-D2: Under the Dome, tracing the background of everyone's favorite droid. This program will also be described and closed captioned. Description for Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace is funded by FOX. Description funding of R2-D2: Under the Dome is provided by the U.S. Department of Education. Caption funding for R2-D2: Under the Dome is provided by FOX.

The Media Access Group at WGBH created the descriptions and captions for the debut of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in movie theaters in May, 1999. That summer, fans drove for hours to experience The Force in a theater equipped with Rear Window Captioning and DVS® Theatrical, innovative in-theater access systems developed by Boston public broadcaster WGBH.

Come Sunday evening, viewers who desire this supplemental narration need travel no further than their own living rooms.

Descriptive Video Service® (DVS) provides descriptive narration of key visual elements, making television programs, feature films, home videos and other visual media accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. Key visual elements are those that visually impaired viewers would ordinarily miss, such as actions, costumes, gestures, facial expressions and scene changes. Inserted within the natural pauses in dialogue, audio descriptions of important visual details help to engage blind viewers with the story.

For a list of FOX stations across the country that will offer descriptions via the SAP channel on this film, visit the Media Access Group's Web site. (A complete list will be available in the DVS section of the site as of Wednesday, Nov. 21).

Viewers access description on their stereo-equipped televisions or VCRs through the Second Audio Program, or SAP channel. Stand alone SAP receivers are also available (these can be used with or without a television). Most TVs or VCRs purchased within the past 8 years are SAP equipped.

To hear the narrated visual descriptions through your stereo TV or VCR, simply activate its SAP feature via the remote control.

Descriptive narration is currently available on a wide variety of programs broadcast by PBS, as well as selected films on the Turner Classic Movies cable network. For a complete list, visit the Media Access Group's site, or call the toll-free DVD Information line at 800 333-1203.


Mary Watkins
Media Access Group at WGBH
(617) 300-3700
(617) 300-2489 TTY