Jazz Lives in Pittsburgh, a group of notable jazz musicians and fans, is asking the FCC to slow down the process for transferring WDUQ's license to new owners, who want to overhaul its jazz-and-NPR format.
In a written objection to the agency, Jazz Lives asks that the license not be transferred to Essential Pubilc Media until the would-be ownership "responds to the programming needs clearly articulated by the community served by WDUQ."
EPM is a consortium of local radio station WYEP and Public Media Company, the offshot of a Colorado-based nonprofit that consults with nonprofit broadcasters. On May 25, the group announced its plans for WDUQ: Instead of its current level of jazz programming -- roughly about 100 hours a week -- the station's new ownership would broadcast a half-dozen hours on Saturday evening. The rest of the schedule would be taken up with expanded NPR offerings, and locally produced journalism.
The new owners have pledged to broadcast jazz on an HD station, and while such stations can only be picked up by special receievers, EPM has promised to offer vouchers that will help WDUQ's current subscribers purchase the necessary equipment.
That didn't satisfy Jazz Lives. In a statement today, the group said that "As a result of these actions, Pittsburgh's artistic and cultural diversity faces a serious threat" -- one that could be warded off "by delaying the application transfer and insisting on an appropriate response by Essential Public Media."
EPM is clearly hoping not to wrap up the sale quickly: Execs have set a July 1 target date for aquiring the station.
In early May, Jazz Lives offered an alternative plan to EPM, one that would leave 42 hours a week of jazz programming on the weekly schedule. But Evan Pattak, who chairs the organization, tells City Paper that while talks were cordial, EPM made it clear their course was set.
Jazz Lives includes an impressive roster of musicians and other cultural figures: Jazz artists like Joe Negri and Nathan Davis are among its members, as well sportscaster Bill Hillgrove, historian Laurence Glasco, former city councilor Sala Udin, and longtime black activist Tim Stevens (who does a bit of jazz singing himself).
Patak says the group's next step is not yet clear: The matter is in the hands of the FCC, which is slated to hold an as-yet-unscheduled public hearing on the license sale. As for the offer to put jazz on HD radio, he says Jazz Lives is unimpressed: If HD radio is so great, after all, why not put the news programming on it?