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WQED goes to the Net

Friday, November 17, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

In its ongoing efforts to create new distribution outlets, WQED Pittsburgh announced plans yesterday at a board meeting to begin streaming magazine show "On Q" over the Internet at www.broadcast.com/television/wqed.

WQED will use Yahoo! Broadcast to make the daily program available for free over the Net. "AgeWise," "Black Horizons" and cooking programs will be added to the site in the future.

In addition, Rick Sebak's latest Pittsburgh History Series special, "Something About Oakland," will premiere on the Internet Dec. 5, one day before its first broadcast on WQED/WQEX. "Something About Oakland" will be available for one-day viewing ($3.95 rental) or purchase ($19.95 to keep) at Mt. Lebanon-based www.sightsound.com.

Chris Fletcher, WQED vice president of publications and Internet services, acknowledged few will take advantage of receiving WQED programs online initially, but as television and computers begin to merge, he said the availability of programming on the Net will become more important.

"We need to break down this idea that we are just a public television station," said board chairman Tom McGough. "If we look at ourselves as just a television station, we're going to be dinosaurs."

WQED-FM station manager Jim Cunningham said the radio station will install a new antenna, perhaps as soon as January. He said it should improve reception of the classical music station.

The WQED community advisory board will meet Dec. 4 at Butler Memorial Hospital in an effort to gather input from outlying communities served by the station.

Financially, WQED took a hit during the three-month transition between fiscal calendars, with a $680,474 net after-revenues loss for the period between July and September. Chief operating officer Robert Petrilli said summer is always the station's weakest period, and a membership campaign didn't begin until late in the period.

Corporate underwriting was up by $20,000 during the period compared to a year earlier, but contributions were off by more than $138,000.

Petrilli said the end of production for "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," which rents studio space from WQED, will not affect the company.

"It is not a significant amount, and it has typically been a very favorable arrangement with Mister Rogers," Petrilli said. "Over time he has essentially cut back his production, so we've adjusted for that."

Still no news on if or when WQEX will stop simulcasting WQED's signal or whether another attempt will be made to sell off Channel 16. WQED president George Miles said he has no time frame for determining the fate of WQEX.

No members of the Save Pittsburgh Public Television campaign attended the meeting, but self-described "homework hotline activist" Rich Fishkin showed up to encourage station management to offer a televised homework helpline for students on one of the two stations.

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