WQED Honorary Board Chair Leland Hazard spoke these words by Goethe as WQED-FM signed on for the first time at noon on Jan. 25, 1973:
Men are so inclined to content themselves with what is commonest; the spirit and the senses so easily grow dead to the impressions of the beautiful and perfect, that everyone should study, by all methods, to nourish in mind the faculty of feeling these things ... for this reason, one ought every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.
"Ladies and gentlemen, such is the purpose of WQED-FM."
The nourishment of the mind and reasonable words (and music) has been the standard for WQED-FM for 40 years now. This year, we begin our fifth decade with the same mission -- to celebrate classical music and the local arts and culture scene -- and the same high-quality programming. Only non-commercial radio can make that claim.
As we mark this milestone, it is a good time to reflect on what WQED-FM has brought to the community, and how the community will determine the station's future.
WQED-FM, as well as the other two non-commercial radio stations in Pittsburgh, is different. It lifts us with classical music, the arts, the spoken word and reason. It is a convener, promoter and distributor of the arts. It is far from the cookie-cutter format of so many radio stations. It is not strident talk radio and it doesn't chase ratings to sell commercials.
WQED-FM is owned by the community that supports it, not some far-off corporation that collects advertising profit. WQED-FM does not sell advertising, but relies on the financial contributions of its listeners to keep it on the air. Its non-commercial status has enabled the station to provide programming free of commercial influence.
Since 1973, WQED-FM has been an exclusively local asset offering the best classical music, live broadcasts of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and a showcase for local arts and cultural assets -- many too small to market themselves.
WQED-FM tapes and airs hundreds of community concerts and syndicates a program called Pittsburgh Symphony Radio to more than 100 stations from New England to Hawaii, exporting our vibrant cultural scene across the country.
WQED-FM nurtures young musicians and tomorrow's audience through a competition called Musical Kids.
Anyone can access WQED-FM. No fee is charged, no membership is required and no dues are collected. All we ask is that those who can contribute to keep the service alive do so to the best of their abilities. For 40 years we have been able to maintain our broadcast operations through individual donations, foundation grants, corporate support and, until recently, funding from the state and federal governments.
It hasn't been easy. With state operating funds eliminated and federal funding constantly debated, programming that we would like to purchase has been put on hold. There is no guarantee that the services on which the public has come to depend will remain in the same form as they are today.
We hear every day from listeners who depend on WQED-FM for their cultural fix, people who cannot make it to Heinz Hall for performances and young people whose love for the arts has been nourished by the programming on WQED-FM.
We take our mission seriously. Listeners are guaranteed that every day they will, as Goethe said, "hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words."
With the support of the people in this region, we hope to keep that mission alive for the next 40 years.
Debra L. Caplan is chair of the WQED Multimedia Board of Directors and senior vice president of Allegheny General Hospital. Deborah L. Acklin is president and CEO of WQED Multimedia.