Steel Town Runaround

The Facebook site for the Pittsburgh Jazz Society, Action United for Jazz, featured the following open letter addressing the lack of transparency on the part of the new ownership “group” at WDUQ — which includes, of course, a new wing of Public Radio Capital (founded for the express purpose of acquisition):

From the desk of Action United for Jazz:

When WDUQ was put up for sale, employees and community supporters formed Pittsburgh Public Media to purchase the station and preserve the programming. The future of jazz seemed assured. WDUQ is the best run, most supported and most listened to public station in Pittsburgh and the Tri-State Area. Who better to run the station than the people who built it into a great community asset?

Why then did Duquesne University turn its back on loyal employees and their own community and choose a group led by Public Radio Capital to buy the station? PRC is in the business of enriching PRC. They have NO INTEREST IN PITTSBURGH OR ITS PEOPLE! Carpetbaggers is the applicable term for them.

WYEP is the local “face” on this deal and was called a “successful operator of an independent public radio station.” The truth is now clear that they are not.

By simply looking at the data produced annually by the respected non-profit evaluator “Charity Navigator,” anyone can plainly see that WYEP not only does not have a good track record, it has an abysmal track record of managing the finances entrusted to it by its members, its underwriters, and the federal government. Among 88 public media organizations ranked this year by Charity Navigator, WYEP ranked 83rd in an overall financial evaluation of its efficiency. In fact, their management ranked in the bottom 10 percent in all but one category. WYEP sounds great on the air, but they are just barely hanging on to their station. This deal may actually kill two stations!

We are faced with the prospect that the Jazz and local news that has made WDUQ unique will be discarded to serve the purposes of a group looking to profit from our loss. Why did Duquesne take a bid of a half million dollars less than what was offered by the people who actually built the station’s success? It’s clear they were misled. Why, and by whom?

We are the public and we demand transparency from those involved here.

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One Response

  1. Action United for Jazz is actually an entity separate from the Pittsburgh Jazz Society. It is a local, affinity-based chapter of the statewide activist group Action United. PJS was just posting Action United’s statement on the sale of WDUQ.

    Duquesne could not possibly have done due diligence in selecting this joint venture comprised of an out-of-town carpetbagger (that tells IRS it sustains operating losses year in and year out) and the least-listened to, least-supported public radio outlet in town, which also happens to be one of the worst-performing nonprofit media organizations in the country. Charity Navigator ratings place them at the bottom of the barrel nationally.

    This whole thing stinks. The prevailing winds blowing the stench into town seem to be coming from Seattle, San Francisco and other PRC points west, as the storm system gathers energy over Boulder, Colorado. We can only hope the gathering storm doesn’t blow over two public radio stations as if it were the tornado that tore through this area last week.

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