Wednesday, July 08, 2009

WQEX redux

Thinking some about QUBE, then seeing the news about funding issues at WQED you have to wonder what the strategic vision is for the station that was trying to mold itself into an omnimedia brand. One thing from that news story jumped out at me. They say they "may also have to eliminate some national programs purchased separately, such as "The Lawrence Welk Show." You have to pay for the Lawrence Welk show?? I jest of course. As best I know it may be the highest rated show they air. Who gets those royalites?

But in thinking about WQED I realized I didn't know what the current state of WQEX.. or lack of state may be a better way to put it. It was a big local story for years, but has been quiescent for a bit. Just seems that the current financial miasma might spur a new look at WQED's desire to sell its underused 2nd channel... so underused that I bet many have forgotten about it, or never even knew about it in the first place at this point. I'll let wikipedia fill in the basic story fwiw.

WQED once wanted to sell the channel for $20 mil I think if they could have ever sold it a a commercial station. I doubt it's worth a fraction of that now even if they were allowed to sell it. What are the economics of the 2nd channel these days? I can't even figure out what Wikipedia is explaining about the channel broadcasting on a 'virtual' channel. I assume it's on one of my cable channels that I never look at. That must be worth something to someone out there? Anyone know what ratings the channel gets if it's even high enough to be measured? If WQED had been free to sell the channel outright, this would have been resolved years ago.

The proposed WQEX sale wound up involving the highest levels of telecommunications policy in the US. The most important FCC ruling on the issue is here. I learned years after the fact that I am quoted in there... not by name, but some of our work is directly referenced. Interesting ruling just looking at the names involved. The Powell is the son of Colin who was chaiman of the FCC at the time. The policy debates directly involved John McCain on the Senate's commerce committee between his races for president. More context and a 2002 version of the WQEX saga written up in the nation is here.

So what now for WQEX and it's parent? I have no idea. But given that WQED sold Pittsburgh Magazine last month, I have no doubt they still want to get rid of WQEX. How to do that is a question I am sure someone is pondering. With the news that the City Paper will be live streaming former WQEX talk show host Lynn Cullen on the Internet soon.... I can see it now: City Paper TV! Potter in audio, visual and printed form. The OmniPotter.

If that does not work... maybe they should show Rick Sebak documentaries 24/7.


Blogger Infinonymous said...

Wild and crazy thought: Use that channel for . . . public access?

Give Bob Mayo a show, Chris Potter, John McIntire, the Allegheny Institute. Perhaps an interview program not controlled . . . I mean, sponsored . . . by UPMC or the Allegheny Conference? A voice for labor, or neighborhoods? Maybe an anarchist or two? Broadcast council meetings (county, city, suburban)?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger n'at said...

PCTV 21 for those crazies, but don't bump my Paul Eugene.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009 5:05:00 PM  
Anonymous johnnyg said...

Chris, you really need to watch those channels you never watch. WQED already has a digital channel that broadcasts Sebak documentaries 24/7.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009 11:59:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

who knew? Is there a digital City Paper channel already as well?

But yeah, I was thinking about PCTV 21 when I first typed that post. That probably deserves a post unto itself. Is there a better model for PCTV which is itself just a product of the cable franchise agreement that begot QUBE.

Thursday, July 09, 2009 8:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that QED and the Carnegie Library's financial problems have similar roots--both institutions jumped on the multi-everything band wagon a few years back (remember the Carnegie Library's logo redesign?), instead of sticking to their knitting and doing what they do best.

Thursday, July 09, 2009 9:28:00 AM  

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