Monday, January 18, 2016


Public media entrepreneur Chuck Leavens is doing something other noncom stations should do too.  Leavens announced last week that the organization he leads – Pittsburgh Public Media – is acquiring an AM station in Pittsburgh for $75,000, a pittance of its true value. Smart, smart move!
 Pittsburgh Public Media [link] is taking advantage of the FCC’s recent action that allows AM stations to acquire FM translators, creating a new “FM station.” The FCC is promoting the AM-moves-to-FM scheme by making available FM translators within 250 miles of the AM stations. Other noncom broadcasters should be investigating now to see if a similar option is available in their area. 
Press coverage of the FCC’s policy has focused on the scarcity of FM translator signals in the largest markets.  This is missing the point. AM-moves-to-FM is perfect for medium sized markets like Pittsburgh.  If it works in Pittsburgh, it may also work in Omaha or Indianapolis or Memphis or maybe where you live.

Pittsburgh Public Media says it will air Leaven’s Pittsburgh Jazz
Channel on the new FM and AM frequencies as it does now 88.1 FM WYZR, which covers the western side of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.


Noncommercial public media works best when it is a public/private partnership. Leavens and others bring proven business techniques to the nonprofit world.  Public media benefits from these new ideas and gutsy risk taking. Noncom entrepreneurs are vital to the future public service media.

The move in Pittsburgh must be particularly sweet for Leavens.  He was part of WDUQ, a dual format NPR News/Jazz station that was sold in 2011 to Essential Public Media. The new owners changed WDUQ into WESA, a 24/7 NPR News station displacing Jazz. (Essential Public Media also owns Triple A WYEP.)
Chuck Leavens
There were lots of hard feelings about the transition from WDUQ to WESA, but that is water under the bridge.  Rather than mope about the change, Leavens got busy. He leveraged the content of the Jazz
Channel, one of several 24/7 programming streams – PubMusic – which distributes music programming via the NPR satellite system. Leavens also operates PubMedia and the PubRadio email list.
In his heart of hearts, Chuck Leavens is a Jazz Man. The energy of the music drives him and the public benefits from the results of his work.  In a press release Leavens summed it up: “It feels good to begin to bring the spirit of community service and Jazz back to Pittsburgh”
Well done, Chuck!

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