Last week we learned that Pittsburgh Public Media was submitting a second bid to purchase from Duquesne University the licenses to broadcast at 90.5FM in Pittsburgh. This week we have learned that at the request of four local foundations the bid will not be opened for two months. Pittsburgh Foundation President and CEO Grant Oliphant says they put down a “relatively modest amount of money” to convince the university to agree to the hold. Oliphant says the goal is to allow the community to have enough time to put forward the best bid possible. That includes the best offer for Duquesne and the best business model going forward. He says the fear is that without the hold, another entity that does not intend to use the frequency as a National Public Radio outlet with a commitment to local reporting would swoop in over the next two month and purchase the licenses. The Pittsburgh Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, the Richard King Mellon Foundation and an anonymous foundation put up the money.
Oliphant says the station could come through this threat as a stronger station with a bigger commitment to “community or ‘public service’ journalism.” He is not making a judgment on any of the offers that have been made to date but feels the delay is in the community’s best interest. “I don’t want to be critical of any offer that is on table. I would only say that we are hoping that over the course of the next two months, any offer put forward at that time would be the strongest possible offer,” Says Oliphant. Oliphant says he thinks there is room for three public radio stations in Pittsburgh. However he says there is still a question of how those stations, or more accurately signals, would be managed. Oliphant says, “I think that’s an open question. There are those who vigorously believe they should be separate and those who vigorously believe that maybe this is the right time for some form of consolidation.” The future of Jazz on 90.5FM is also an open question that Oliphant says will have to be explored of the next 60 days.
Oliphant says he is looking to make sure the plan that comes out of the process is one that is sustainable. He says, “if this is seen as ‘now the foundations are going to step in and quote save the day’ that’s a bad outcome.” Oliphant goes on to say, “I think DUQ’s success in the last pledge drive indicates there is substantial support and broad public support for WDUQ and its future.” When asked what the role of the listeners should be in the process Oliphant says they need to be prepared to show their support. “That’s typically expressed in the public radio world through pledge drives and I hope that will continue. But I think it is to also be prepared to write letters to the editor, to express support in the community, for DUQ remaining a true community resource and a true public radio station,” says Oliphant. Listen to the edited interview aired on WDUQ here.
You can hear an unedited version of the interview here.