Full-time Jazz to return to Pittsburgh, but how?


The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently reported that market may be hearing jazz on the airwaves again by early next year—to make up for the loss of WDUQ-FM to near full-time NPR talk. But there could be a problem, as you’ll read. Pittsburgh has been without a jazz station since 2011, when Duquesne University sold the former WDUQ — now WESA-FM — to Essential Public Media, a nonprofit committed to preserving public radio news and information programming in Pittsburgh.

WESA expanded on the station’s NPR and local news programming, but dropped the daily on-air jazz shows. It continues to air jazz on Saturday nights and on HD-2 (just music, no talent).

The nonprofit Pittsburgh Public Media, which owns a local online jazz radio station, has signed an agreement to buy the WVBC-FM (88.1) signal for $135,000. The station is owned by Bethany College in Bethany, WV, about 40 miles southwest of Downtown Pittsburgh. The plan is to use the 88.1 frequency to broadcast a jazz format in the Pittsburgh region, reports the Post-Gazette.

More excerpts from the story:

The venture is a joint effort between PPM and PubMusic: PPM will hold the license for the new station and PubMusic will produce the programming.

PPM was formed in 2010 by a group of former WDUQ-FM staffers and community leaders who wanted to buy the station and preserve its jazz-and-news/NPR format. The reorganized four-member board includes original and new PPM members.

PubMusic operates the online Pittsburgh Jazz Channel (PGHJazzChannel.net).

The deal hinges on two things: the success of a $150,000 fundraising campaign and FCC approval of the sale.

The group has raised $15,000 so far from donors. Funds raised over the sales price would go to acquiring a new studio space. They need to raise the money by Feb. 1.

The format will be jazz, using Pittsburgh Jazz Channel programming. The online jazz channel, which launched in September 2011, features former WDUQ evening host Tony Mowod, former WDUQ GM Scott Hanley, along with John Lasanich and Bill Hillgrove.

If the deal goes through, the new owners will have to boost the signal for it to reach all parts of the Pittsburgh area. The 1,100-watt station reaches to the South Hills and areas south of the city, including Washington, along with portions of West Virginia and Ohio, said the story.

“This station does not cover Pittsburgh the way we want to. But it is a start,” Chuck Leavens, president of PPM’s board of directors and CEO of PubMusic told the paper. “We don’t want to mislead anyone that it’s going to be on the air strong in all areas of Pittsburgh” initially.

He said options include moving to a closer antenna; adding translators, which would extend the signal’s reach north and east of the city; or buying another station. “We have some signal issues, but we have to get the station first,” he said.

See The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story here

RBR-TVBR observation: Indeed, they would have to boost the signal to cover the ‘Burgh, but the problem is (see coverage maps, above) co-channel WRWJ-FM (88.1 at 1,000 watts) in east suburban Murrysville, PA and Carnegie Mellon University’s first-adjacent WRCT-FM (88.3 at 1,750 watts) near downtown. The FCC will likely not allow a signal boost of WVBC under the current conditions due to interference that would crop up against WRWJ and WRCT–and likely not translators where they’re needed for the same reason. The quick answer would be to purchase WRWJ and simulcast both stations exactly at the same time, a la WYPR-FM Baltimore and WYPF-FM Frederick, MD. This way the market would be covered from both east and southwest and no signal changes would have to be applied for.