June 9, 2010; Source: WDUQ News | A 60-day option by four foundations to purchase the license of National Public Radio affiliate WDUQ-FM in Pittsburgh isn’t going to run its full 60 days. The four foundations—the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, and an anonymous one—had paid an unknown amount for the option which was set to expire on July 4th weekend.
Broadcasting news, NPR shows, and jazz, the station is owned by Duquesne University which decided to sell the license with a minimum bid requirement of $10 million. The management and staff of the station created a nonprofit, Pittsburgh Public Media, to purchase the station, but the university rejected that nonprofit’s two bids. Why did the foundations drop their option? Finances? Duquesne says it has to kick in around $500,000 a year to keep the station going, money it would rather devote to educational programs for its students.
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Why pull out a month early? Maybe there were additional payments required to keep the option alive into July and the foundations didn’t see the value there. But the risk is that Pittsburgh’s only jazz station and the city’s access to quality NPR programming may be really at jeopardy. For many of us used to public radio affiliates linked to universities (WBUR at Boston University comes to mind for us), Duquesne’s decision to sell the station, potentially to an entity that isn’t interested in maintaining its jazz and NPR programming, seems to be at odds with a university’s educational mission, not to its student population, but to the community in which it resides.— Rick Cohen