WQED Multimedia finds success in digital TV channel

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Stressing a new look in the new fiscal year, WQED Multimedia officers stressed a few new tactics in discovering revenue streams. The station's quarterly board meeting was held Thursday night at Temple Rodef Shalom.

A live town hall broadcast at the station prompted the change in venue.

Concerts and regional specials aren't inspiring viewers to donate as in years past, prompting a reduction of such pledge fundraising days by 18 percent, which bucks a national trend for public broadcast stations. The station's 2012-13 budget is $13.7 million.

A surprising success was WQED's introduction in October 2011 of a digital television channel -- WQED Showcase -- that brought in donations to the tune of $140,000, $30,000 more than projected.

"Over 40 percent of donations through Showcase were new donors," said Deborah Acklin, president and CEO of WQED Multimedia.

An unusual report was filed via Skype by WQED-FM artistic manager Jim Cunningham, who is in Barcelona with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on its European tour.

Checking in with the board around 12:45 p.m. after listening to the PSO's well-received Mahler's second symphony, Mr. Cunningham laughed and said he came across a local listing for that genre of concert beloved by public broadcast fundraisers everywhere: doo-wop.

Earlier in the meeting, four new members of the board were elected to three-year terms: attorneys W. Thomas McGough (chief legal officer, UPMC) and James Singer (partner, Fox Rothschild), as well as Darlene Motley, associate dean of the Robert Morris University school of business, and Mildred Myers, teaching professor of management communications emerita, Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business.

In other business, it was announced that WQED will be receiving a grant of unspecified amount from the Heinz Endowments to complement a previously announced funding from The National Endowment for the Humanities, bolstering the creation of the documentary "August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand."

Also awarding a grant is the PNC Foundation.

The 90-minute documentary is a co-production of the station and the PBS series "American Masters." It will air in late 2014.

The documentary will explore the life of Wilson, a Pittsburgh native and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.

"This is the story not only of one man, but also of his success in putting the lives of ordinary, yet complex people on the national stage," said Darryl Ford Williams, WQED vice president of content.

The Heinz Endowments also has awarded a "major" grant of unspecified amount to help fund WQED Multimedia's initiative to increase awareness of portrayal and perception of African-American men and boys.

The project already has provided focus through television and town hall components.

"This year a new component, modeled after a national initiative that allows men and boys to tell their own stories, will be added to the program," said Carmen Anderson, Heinz Endowments' senior program officer for children, youth & families and chair of the foundation's African American Men and Boys task force.

A report also was made of the physical improvements to WQED facilities, including refurbishing the exterior of the station on Fifth Avenue.

Improvements to the HVAC system, windows and computer system are in the works.


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


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