Companies aiding WQED may get state tax credits

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On the face of it, filmmaker Rick Sebak has little in common with tax credit incentives.

But they were among the highlights at WQED's spring board meeting Thursday in Oakland. WQED Multimedia announced it has been approved to benefit from the state's Educational Improvement Tax Credit program and could be receiving funds as early as July.

"There are two different programs: scholarship or educational improvement," said Carole Bailey, vice president and chief financial officer for WQED Multimedia.

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development's approval means qualified companies can receive large tax breaks -- in some cases getting back up to 75 cents on the dollar for a one-year contribution, 90 percent for a two-year commitment of the same amount each year -- when they donate to WQED educational programs.

Among the public station's educational offerings is the iQ SmartMedia programming, as well as outreach such as Sci Girls, Design Lives Here and its annual young writers contest.

WQED was eligible to receive funds through the EITC a few months back, but the state cache of tax credits already had been exhausted.

On a warm and fuzzier note, Mr. Sebak will deliver a local documentary, "A History of Pittsburgh in 17 Objects," June 5. Noting that the BBC and The New York Times previously tackled sweeping, similar projects and that another of his recent films used the number "25" in the title, Mr. Sebak said he settled on "17."

"Seventeen is a prime number, and there were [originally] 17 inclines in Pittsburgh," he said.

Among the 17 objects: a history of the Heinz Pickle pin -- with a surprising nod to the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago -- and the skinless weiner. The latter was the product of Mellon Institute technology; go figure.

On a national scale, Regent Square resident Mr. Sebak has begun work on a 2015 PBS special about pies and bakeries. Pittsburgh will get a cream pie shout-out, he said.


Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.

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