All That Jazz

Tom Taylor’s newsletter carried the latest bad news for college radio: WDUQ in Pittsburgh, sold by the bean counters at Duquesne to a public radio group “enhanced” by dollars from a PRC offshoot, Public Media Company, and absorbed into the NPR borg, will shove the beloved jazz programming off into HD purgatory. PRC was brought in by the original management team to help them buy the station, but ended up selling them down the river(s) and forming its own acquisition team:

Pittsburgh jazz fans were anxious about losing their music on WDUQ – and they were right.

The hipsters have been talking about what percentage of jazz might remain after Essential Public Media closed on its $6 million purchase of the non-com from Duquesne University – and the answer is “almost zero.” Except for a Saturday night block, it’s all being shunted to a fulltime HD multicast channel and to a dedicated online all-jazz service. Essential Public Media quotes NPR to the effect that “Pittsburgh is one of only two U.S. cities in the top 35 radio markets without a full-service NPR news and information station.” That will change on July 1 – and give Essential Public Media credit for disclosing their plans, five weeks ahead of the change. The buyer is a first-time partnership between another Pittsburgh non-com, adult alternative WYEP (91.3), and a new unit of Public Radio Capital named Public Media Company. Former Minnesota Public Radio executive Dennis Hamilton, currently Director of Consulting for PRC, will serve as WDUQ’s interim President/GM. We also gain some insight into the financials of the buyer. The Richard King Mellon Foundation and Heinz Endowments have each committed $1.5 million toward the purchase and operating costs. Essential Public Media is getting $250,000 from the strategic reserve fund of WYEP and another $250,000 from a fund managed by The Pittsburgh Foundation.” It’s still talking with TPG and other local charitable foundations.

WDUQ remains a center of jazz programming.

The Pittsburgh operation will continue producing “Jazzworks” for national syndication. It uses some slick digital technology to deliver “a single, significant programming channel”, which can actually be fed in a customized fashion. Jazzworks LLC is currently owned and operated by Duquesne University’s WDUQ, and is part of the package going over to buyer Essential Public Media. Also to keep jazz fans happy – there’s a continuing six-hour Saturday evening jazz show on the main WDUQ signal (90.5), plus “jazz reports and features” elsewhere in the broadcast week. Essential Public Media pledges to record live jazz events around Pittsburgh for broadcast on HD Multicast and online. And here’s something that should make iBiquity happy – “a voucher program for member listeners to help them purchase HD Radio receivers.”

A story on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s website, “Switch from jazz at WDUQ falls flat for enthusiasts,” aired some of the local complaints:

“It’s draconian,” said Evan Pattak, chair of Jazz Lives in Pittsburgh, of EPM’s decision. “From 100 hours [a week] to six — it’s a blow to this city’s cultural and artistic diversity. I can’t imagine any jazz fan who would find it acceptable.”

Mr. Pattak and a group of community leaders and jazz supporters launched Jazz Lives in Pittsburgh earlier this year. They submitted a proposal to EPM, asking for six hours of jazz a day — less than what WDUQ currently airs, arguing that limited jazz is better than none.

Followers of the Save Our WDUQ Facebook site (link on right) are not happy:

Jim Amato Another sad case of a broadcasting company not listening to its listeners. There’s already 3 news/talk stations in this city. What are we going to do without our jazz? This city produced legends in jazz that are world renowned. It’s a slap in the face to jazz and its supporters in this region.

Larry Belli If I want to hear car talk, I go hang with Goober!

Peter King I will certainly stop contributing to WDUQ. And then there’s WYEP, the station that helped buy DUQ and kill the jazz. I won’t ever be contributing to YEP again.Also, for anyone who is considering withdrawing membership dollars but might feel guilty for not “helping” the community, I can name a dozen other arts and/or broadcast/Web nonprofits in Pittsburgh and elsewhere deserving of our support. And one more thing — not just the outcome but the process of this whole thing has smelled bad since Day 1. Without going into the whole long, sad story (which has yet to be fully reported), jazz fans and the DUQ staff have been ignored, treated as fools and generally disrespected. When the “new” DUQ calls me or writes me and subtly suggests I have a duty to support public radio, I’ll answer: “What public radio?”

One Response

  1. And jazz fans take another slap in the face…..Of course KUT in Austin did away with its 2 evenings of jazz programming almost 2 years ago, moved them over to their HD signal. Or i guess they did, I don’t know of a single person who has ever actually listened to it. And I’m a huge jazz fan, spend at least one night a week at our jazz club The Elephant Room. No one I’ve ever spoken to there has ever listened to the HD channel and since all mention of it has been buried on their website who knows if it even still exists. Except for that constant drain on the station’s coffers…..

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