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Jan 17 2011

Sale of DUQ not surprising; BZZ back in town… sorta

I suspect those who represent the University probably don’t have much knowledge of what it took to operate a station. I don’t mean financially. Rather, they really don’t spend their days reading PBRTV or other trade publications and probably left the station’s daily operations up to the people who knew what they were doing – the station employees. The ones who offered a fair price. What a kick in the pants.

Meanwhile, WYEP (91.3) comes along with a new venture called Essential Public Media and offers $6 Million. I suspect the Duquesne folks considered how long the station had been on the market and thought the price was the best offer to be had. And there you have it. Now 60+ years of heritage; a great PR tool for the university and a station Pittsburgh has loved and admired could be rebranded and turned entirely around. I hope not. The thought of the “commercial mentality” coming to the public spectrum of the dial just makes me shutter.

Oh… and did you know that ‘DUQ engineer Chuck Leavens spent much of the latter part of 2010 building new studios for the station in another campus building so the university could tear down the building the station occupied for years? Yep, couldn’t even wait for the sale. Now it may sound like I’m beating up on Duquesne University and maybe I am being a little too harsh. I do wish them well with their plans and uses for the $6 Million they’re to receive from this sale. I only hope that it gives them as much notariety and return as WDUQ has over the last 60 years. I also wish WYEP and Essential Public Media the best as well. I wish them the best in WDUQ’s fine staff – people they are not obligated to keep mind you. 

There’s a Buzzzzzzzzzzz in town 

So WBZZ is headed back to town?! Well sort of. It’ll return to its former sister station – kind of like some of the on-air staffers. But it won’t be “WBZZ Pittsburgh”. “WBZZ New Kensington/Pittsburgh” will be the legal ID. You would think that if they’re going to bring heritage call letters back to town, they would want it to read the same as it once did. But does it matter anyway? I mean how many listeners really know a station’s actual callsign. Forget KDKA for a moment or WTAE-AM. Most listeners know a station by the common identification or “branding” that they hear more than once an hour. Most people remember “B-94” or “Wish” or “Hit Radio 96” rather than “WBZZ” or “WSHH” or “WHTX”. For that matter, how many people know about “WZPT”? It was adopted when the station became an all-70’s outlet in the mid-1990s as “The Point 100.7”. It sort of lost its meaning as the years and formats went by. That’s okay, cause WBZZ won’t have much meaning when it returns on Wednesday either.

See, come Wednesday we won’t hear “B-101” or “B-100.7”. No “Buzz-FM” or “Z101”. Nope, still “STAR 100.7” just as “WBZZ New Kensington/Pittsburgh”. (Oh and don’t forget the new legal ID diatribe on 1020… “KDKA and kdkaradio.com; KDKA-FM HD3; WDSY HD3 Pittsburgh and WBZZ HD3 New Kensington/Pittsburgh”.)

Now one has to wonder, what will happen with the WZPT calls? Maybe they could find a home on the public end of the dial. Say 90.5?

We live in a crazy, mixed-up time. A time where heritage is often forgotten. When it is, it isn’t necessarily for the right reason. There are two noteworthy events that are in the midst of taking place as I write that make me think that.

The sale of WDUQ-FM (90.5) is the first. We knew it was coming; but the silence over the last few months fooled us into thinking that things might have calmed down. Then BLAMO! WDUQ is sold… and not to the people we had thought might care for it and maintain it to the same standards for which it has been known for many years. That would be Pittsburgh Public Media – a non-profit group made up of station employees and community members interested in preserving the station’s heritage. If memory serves, they offered a fair $3 Million for the station. And that’s when the silence began. Duquesne University really wanted $10 Million.

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