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Appeal to Community to Help Sustain Local Public Service Media


Appeal to Community to Help Sustain Local Public Service Media

PITTSBURGH – The proposed reduction in federal funding and its impact on public broadcasting was front and center at the regularly scheduled meeting of the WQED Board of Directors today at the WQED studios in Oakland. The proposed reduction could impact WQED as well as public television and radio stations across the country in the coming year.

“At the outset, I want to clearly state that WQED will continue to be a keystone of our community well into the future,” said Richard L. Stover, Chair of the WQED Board of Directors. “Should federal funding be eliminated, we will have to take a look at the programming and educational services that we provide to the community and strategically align it with available funding. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has eliminated funding and WQED is still here. Should federal funding be reduced or eliminated, WQED will still be here to serve this community, just as it has for the last 57 years.”

“There has been a lot of rhetoric recently about the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and NPR,” said Deborah L. Acklin, President and Chief Executive Officer of WQED.

“But our fight is not about PBS or NPR – it is about WQED – the nation’s first community-supported station. It’s our local station and has been since 1954. With federal funding at serious risk - and I believe there is a high probability of it being reduced or eliminated in the next few years – we have no choice but to turn to this community for additional support.”

WQED receives $1,363,000 from the federal government for television operations and $159,000 for radio, in addition to some money to update equipment, for its Ready to Learn educational initiative, and for national documentaries that are produced by Emmy Award-winning Rick Sebak. Federal funding accounts for approximately 12% of WQED’s $16.5 million budget.

The roughly $1.5 to $2 million elimination proposed by Congress would be on top of an additional $2 million in operating support that was totally eliminated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through 2009 and 2010.

Further cuts in funding would affect WQED’s core services: television and radio programming and education. Staff has been reduced from 130 positions in 2005 to 79 full-time positions today. Also eliminated were raises for all staff, contributions to retirement funds, and staff now makes larger contributions to health care coverage.

There are currently five bills in the House of Representatives that propose cuts or elimination of federal funding for public broadcasting:

• H.R. 1076 – Prohibits federal funding to NPR and the use of federal funds to purchase radio programming

• H. R. 409 – Eliminates the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in FY 2011

• H. R. 235 – Eliminates funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in FY 2011

• H. R. 69 – Prevents public radio stations from using federal funds to purchase NPR programming

• H. R. 68 – Eliminates funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting after FY 2013

170 million Americans, more than half of the United States population, use public broadcasting – television, radio, education, programs, and services – every month. In southwestern Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, northern West Virginia and western Maryland, 1.5 million people out of a population of 3 million benefit from WQED’s television, radio, education, and interactive programs and services every month. WQED is a free service to the community – no dues are charged, no fees are collected, and no admission is taken.

Ms. Acklin publicly called for the community to show their support to WQED by asking for an additional $2 million in donations and gifts this year. This money will make up for the potential and likely loss of all federal funding in the years ahead and position WQED as a truly community-supported organization.

“The community cannot take WQED for granted,” Ms. Acklin said.

“We need more of the community – corporations, businesses, individuals – to join the foundations, companies and individual members who have been consistent supporters of WQED over the years.”

State budget cuts will affect pre-school programs, Head Start, and full-day Kindergarten. WQED will be even more essential to this age group. WQED airs 12-hours of quality educational programming for children every day.

WQED is one of the busiest PBS stations in the country, producing seven local half-hour television programs each week.

Classical WQED-FM 89.3 is the #5 classical radio station in the country by percentage of audience, with a loyal and younger audience that also provides exposure to local arts and culture organizations.

WQED’s Education Department’s new strategy – iQ: smartmedia – is leading major partnerships with the Children’s Museum and the Carnegie Library in Braddock.

Roughly ninety percent of WQED’s audience does not yet financially support the station. The time for viewers, listeners and users to become sustaining members is now.

“This is a call to action. Now is the time. Do not take WQED for granted,” said Ms. Acklin

WQED Pittsburgh, honored with the 2007 and 2006 Mid-Atlantic Emmy® Award for Station Excellence, was founded in 1954 as the nation’s first community-supported broadcaster. The people of WQED create, produce and distribute quality programs, products and services to engage, inform, educate and entertain the public within their community and around the world. WQED Pittsburgh is one of the first broadcasters in the country to be fully high-definition (HD) in its studio and field production capabilities. It is the parent company of WQED-TV (PBS); WQED: The Neighborhood Channel; WQED: The Create Channel; WQEX-TV (A ShopNBC affiliate); Classical WQED-FM 89.3/Pittsburgh; Classical WQEJ-FM 89.7/Johnstown; local and national television and radio productions; WQED Interactive (www.wqed.org); and The WQED Education Department.

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WQED Pittsburgh
4802 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213


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