WDUQ Radio: Give us your views
By Grant Oliphant
In recent days, several people have emailed me urging The Pittsburgh Foundation to “save the jazz” on WDUQ, apparently out of concern that the four foundations that recently acted to forestall the station’s sale for 60 days are contemplating a new format oriented more to news and information. Their affection for jazz is clear, and I appreciated hearing about their concerns.
Unfortunately, though, at this stage their emails assume a level of control we don’t have right now. The more immediate challenge for all of us who care about the fate of DUQ is to “save the station,” to keep it as a true community asset working in the public interest. There is significant risk that this community could lose not only a programming format but everything currently associated with DUQ, including the NPR programming that makes it the most listened-to of Pittsburgh’s three primary public radio outlets and is the source of at least two-thirds of its public financial support.
The group of Pittsburgh foundations who have taken an option on the purchase of the station did so in the hope that our community would use this time to develop and put forward a credible, financially sustainable vision for purchasing the station and preserving it as a public asset. If there is to be any hope of saving DUQ, it lies in putting forth a proposal capable of attracting significant resources, at a time when the competition for scarce philanthropic dollars from whatever source, foundations or individuals, is as fierce as any time in recent memory.
It is true that the foundation group’s interest is particularly tied to the expanding role of public radio in providing essential news and information to communities such as ours. We are also mindful that top experts from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio, and American Public Radio have all concluded that the presence of a news-and-information public station in Pittsburgh would strengthen not only DUQ but also WQED and WYEP, especially if they can find ways to work together.
What that would mean for jazz, whether it’s financially feasible, and whether it’s the best use of philanthropic dollars in these hard economic times, are just three of the issues our group of foundations is trying to sort out during this hiatus. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Public Media, a group led by the station’s current management, is working to build support for a proposal it has already submitted to the university. It is entirely possible that the two initiatives may eventually converge on a common vision, but whether they do or not, we applaud PPM’s efforts. We hope this time will allow the community to put its best ideas forward for saving DUQ.
As part of our effort, we hope to gather input from others in this community who care about the future of DUQ and of public radio in Pittsburgh. That input will inform our deliberations as we consider what role we might be able to play – if any – in saving the station, and with what sort of programming.
Your thoughts are welcome.