WDUQ tops $1 million in on-air fundraising

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For the first time, on-air fundraising by WDUQ-FM has brought in more than $1 million in a year.

The station Friday concluded its nine-day spring pledge drive and netted $218,000. That brings the total on-air donations raised for the 2009-2010 fiscal year to $1,010,960.

"We are proud and humbled by the level of support we have received over the past year -- particularly since January when the sale of DUQ was announced," said WDUQ director of development Fred Serino.

"The listeners have proven beyond a doubt that the news, jazz and NPR service that DUQ provides is of value to them."

Duquesne University, which has owned the frequency since 1949, put the station up for sale to rechannel proceeds into educational efforts, leaving many of the station's 180,000 listeners worried that the Pittsburgh market might lose its jazz and NPR programming.

Earlier this month the sale was put on hold until early July after four local foundations bought a 60-day option to buy some time to protect the signal from being sold to a higher bidder who could change the format. Four parties have bid on the station, including Pittsburgh Public Media, a group of station staff and community representatives who say they are committed to preserving the NPR and jazz format. The others have not been identified.

"We want the community to have the opportunity to put forward its best possible offer," said Grant Oliphant, president of the Pittsburgh Foundation, earlier this month. The Pittsburgh Foundation, with the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Heinz Endowments and an anonymous foundation gave what amounts to hand money to Duquesne University to freeze the sale. The foundation group is not interested in buying the station.

The money raised through the on-air campaign goes to help pay for the day-to-day operations of the station. Money from on-air pledges, membership fees and other contributions from the public make up a little more than half of the roughly $3 million in the station's annual revenues, according to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The rest comes from Public Broadcasting, underwriters, Duquesne University and grants from other sources.

Last year's on-air spring pledge drive raised $185,000, along with an additional $208,000 in a special June drive, part of which went to help NPR with its own year-end deficit, but the year's total came in under $1 million.

This spring's pledge messages were carefully worded in referring to the possible sale. Station staff and recorded messages from NPR hosts drove home the message that the station is "on course" to become an independent stand-alone organization, but that money is needed to keep it going until it's sold.

Still other messages coming out of the pledge drive hinted at concerns about the future of jazz on the air. More than one fundraising volunteer said on the air during the drive that "the future of jazz in Pittsburgh is in doubt."

Adrian McCoy: amccoy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1865.


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