Pittsburgh's NPR News and jazz music station WDUQ is to be sold for $6 million to a joint partnership of WYEP and Public Media Company, a new local ownership and operating entity established by Public Radio Capital.
The sales contract is half the price that the license-holder Duquesne University sought to earn when it put WDUQ on the market last year. "It’s a market issue," said Dr. Charles Dougherty, president, during a Jan. 14 news conference. The university started with the "highest possible asking price," as any seller would do.
The final deal, approved by an executive committee of the Duquesne University board, strikes a balance between providing cash to invest in the university's academic programs and preserving the station and its 60-year history as a community service, Dougherty said. [News release]
The aspiring licensee is Essential Public Media, a partnership between WYEP and PRC's new nonprofit, Public Media Company. It intends to expand the news offerings of WDUQ, which now splits its broadcast day between news and music.
The deal provides some accommodation for jazz music lovers, but officials at the news conference said programming decisions are yet to be made. "The framework is set, but specific format details haven’t been resolved," said Marco Cardomone, chair of the WYEP Board. His station will retain and even "beef up" its Triple A music format, he said.
The contract establishes an employment and internship program for Duquesne students at the new station, but WDUQ managers and staff will lose their jobs when the sale closes. "We’ve informed them of this decision and are counting on their history of professionalism to see us through the transition," Dougherty said, referring to the station's staff.
Public Radio Capital, a Colorado-based consultancy and broker for public media stations, describes Public Media Company as "a natural outgrowth" of its work to help local stations acquire new outlets and strengthen their services. The nonprofit will be led by managing director Ken Ikeda, who is stepping down as head of the Bay Area Video Coalition to take the job.
Editor's note: This blog post has been corrected to describe the relationship between Essential Public Media, the licensee bidding for WDUQ, and the Public Media Company established by PRC.