June 9, 2011

Hope Fulfilled? Maybe Not

When it was announced that Pittsburgh’s WDUQ-FM had been sold to Essential Public Media, it was clear that WDUQ would remain a nonprofit public radio station. (See “Hope Fulfilled?”) The announcement by the WYEP/Public Media Company consortium, however, was vague about the format of the station when it changed hands.

Pittsburghers eventually learned that programming on the new WDUQ would be virtually all news and information. Jazz would be available for six hours on Saturday and all day on an HD channel. (The station already has a 24-hour all jazz HD channel, so this is not an innovation.) There is much consternation among local jazz fans, and a new group, Jazz Lives in Pittsburgh, has even filed an informal complaint with the FCC about the format change.

I am personally conflicted about the change. My expectation is that many of my favorite programs will remain on the station—Morning Edition, Fresh Air, and All Things Considered. I am hopeful that I will still be able to hear On the Media, Car Talk, Riverwalk: Live From the Landing, and Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! I fear that the locally produced Rhythm Sweet & Hot, co-hosted by my friend Mike Plaskett, will disappear. I will, no doubt, be introduced to new shows from NPR, PRI, and other sources, and will become fond of them. I don’t disagree that Pittsburgh needs a full-time news and information public radio station.

But Pittsburgh, with its impressive jazz heritage and lively jazz present, needs jazz on the radio as well. Exiling jazz to the HD radio ghetto is not an acceptable solution. Like most folks, I don’t have an HD radio, and I certainly don’t have one in my car. (Does anyone?) I don’t expect to be hearing much jazz come July 1.

A few days ago, I began to listen to WYEP-FM, trying to get a sense of what music it plays. I have been unimpressed. The format is an eclectic mess for which I can find no ready characterization. The station does have its fans, I assume, but I am still waiting to hear anything on WYEP that seems worth listening to.

WYEP and WDUQ will soon share the same building and will, in a sense, be joined at the hip. So here’s an idea—swap some of the whatever-it-is-that-WYEP-plays and substitute a substantial amount of jazz. That could be a win for everyone. Pittsburgh would get the public information station it needs, jazz fans would lose only some of the jazz on the radio, and WYEP listeners would experience even more eclecticism. How about it, Essential Public Media?

WDUQ logo

1 comment:

  1. I pledged a significant amount to hear jazz when I'm in Pittsburgh, especially Tuesday nights. If jazz is no longer available at the times I want to listen, I think I'll request that a significant portion of my investment be returned. I can get all that other stuff from Morgantown, Youngstown and Kent. Thanks for warning me.

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