Duquesne University has ordered WDUQ-FM to stop airing underwriter support messages from the reproductive rights and health-care education group Planned Parenthood.
The National Public Radio affiliate and jazz station, which is based on the Duquesne University campus and operates under the university's 501(c)3 tax-exempt status, pulled the underwriting acknowledgement messages Thursday.
"Planned Parenthood is not aligned with the university's Catholic mission and identity and legally, stations are not required to accept underwriting support," said Bridget Fare, Duquesne University spokeswoman.
Scott Hanley, the station's director and general manager, notified Planned Parenthood this week of the university's decision.
"The [university] president's office reached me and I spoke with Dr. [Charles J.] Dougherty and he expressed great concern about the university taking a gift from Planned Parenthood and felt that was inappropriate," Mr. Hanley said yesterday. "I can understand the university's feelings about that. Underwriting is actually a donation. It is not an advertising buy."
Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania learned of the university's decision Thursday.
"[Duquesne University] could not accept Planned Parenthood donations and therefore WDUQ could not, Planned Parenthood was told," said Kimberlee Evert, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania.
"I don't believe that donors realize that when they support public radio, they are actually donating to Duquesne University," Ms. Evert said. "According to this logic, WDUQ can't accept donations from anyone supportive of reproductive choice. Is WDUQ now going to screen every donor to find out whether they're in compliance with Catholic doctrine?"
The messages, funded from a consortium of Planned Parenthood affiliates across Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, started airing Monday, just as the station was getting ready to launch its fall membership campaign. WDUQ is the only NPR station in the tri-state consortium to reject the underwriting.
"Duquesne University's WDUQ pulled Planned Parenthood underwriting because of their message of abstinence, prevention and teen self-esteem," said Margot Callahan of Mount Washington. "So, I pulled my dollar-a-day pledge during their fund drive."
Planned Parenthood is asking the radio station to reverse the decision to reject the underwriting messages. About $5,300 of the Planned Parenthood tri-state consortium's $50,000 in underwriting was slated for WDUQ.
It's the university's position that the services that Planned Parenthood provides, from contraception to abortion, are "contrary to the Catholic Church," Ms. Fare said.
"A donation to WDUQ is specifically earmarked for WDUQ, but it technically is considered a donation to Duquesne," she said.
State Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, is urging WDUQ-FM to resume running corporate underwriting messages from Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania.
"I call on Duquesne University to respect the editorial independence of WDUQ. Any other decision would harm the station and the community," said Mr. Frankel, chairman of the Allegheny County Democratic delegation in the state House.
L.A. Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3903.