Local foundations buy into WDUQ's future
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The Pittsburgh Foundation and three other local foundations have purchased a 60-day option on the WDUQ-FM radio license owned by Duquesne University, Grant Oliphant, president of the Pittsburgh Foundation, said Tuesday.
Besides the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, the Richard King Mellon Foundation and an anonymous foundation gave Duquesne University what amounts to hand money, he said, declining to specify the sum.
However, the foundations are not interested in taking over ownership of the radio station, but are more concerned about shaping the station's future. The hand money buys some "breathing space" so the foundations can invite comment and do research to develop the "strongest vision for what the station should be," he said.
The group aims to preserve the station's National Public Radio format and sees a need to strengthen overall public service journalism in Pittsburgh, Mr. Oliphant said. "We want the community to have the opportunity to put forward its best possible offer."
Duquesne University put the station, which also carries a jazz format, up for sale late last year to channel the assets into educational improvements. The station's worth has been estimated at up to $10 million. Duquesne University President Charles Dougherty has said that the university would like to get something close to that for the station.
Now that the option has been bought, Mr. Oliphant said, "The university will not sell the station for these two months." The clock began ticking this week and expires in the first week of July.
Duquesne University spokeswoman Bridget Fare confirmed that during the 60-day period, the university will not conduct any negotiations.
The latest development comes after another bidder, the nonprofit Pittsburgh Public Media, submitted a second bid last week for the station. Duquesne University had rejected the first one in March. Neither amount was disclosed. Public Media was one of four groups vying for the station.
During the next 60 days, the foundations want to put together a plan to improve the quality of public service journalism in Pittsburgh, Mr. Oliphant said. That plan would involve meetings with other public radio stations in Pittsburgh like WQED-FM and WYEP-FM and also with organizations such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, based in Washington, D.C.
If the foundations decide to support the entity the ultimately buys WDUQ and its vision for the station's future, the hand money would be put toward the purchase price of the station license. If the foundations do not support the ultimate outcome, the university will keep the money.
"Our group has been interested for some time in the broad question of how our community gets its news and information in the context of a rapidly changing media environment," he said. "We've been exploring how to preserve and strengthen local journalism in our community."
"Duquesne is to be commended for its willingness to go along with this offer and give the community more time to put together its best possible offer," Mr. Oliphant said. "Our hope would be that Duquesne would place a premium on keeping the station in the community and in the public interest."
First Published May 5, 2010 12:00 am