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WQED-TV OKs budget, looks to cut costs

Friday, September 21, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

After last week's terrorist attacks on America, WQED-TV opened phone banks staffed by counselors to take calls from concerned viewers. The station quickly pulled together three special editions of its newsmagazine, "On Q."

But the aftereffects of the attacks and the repercussions on the economy are a worry for WQED Pittsburgh President George Miles. At last night's annual board of directors meeting, Miles sounded a note of concern about what the fallout will mean for WQED, which is largely dependent on donations from individuals and on corporate underwriting.

"I'm no different than anyone else in the country. There's uncertainty about where we are going, but I'm confident we'll be fine," Miles said after the meeting. "We're not turning out the lights. We just have to keep our eyes on what's going on. The problem eight years ago was, they didn't keep an eye on the marketplace."

The board passed a $20.5 million break-even budget for the station's new fiscal year, which runs Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2002.

The budget was prepared before the terrorist attacks and anticipates a $1.8 million increase in revenue.

In light of last week's events, Miles said, he has asked department managers to go through their budgets again and find ways to save money. WQED will limit business travel, put a freeze on hiring and look for ways to make use of its studio for additional business opportunities. Miles encouraged board members to contact him if they know of companies looking for space to rent for seminars, training sessions or teleconferencing.

The board elected six new members: Edward Diggs, a partner at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart; Michelle Jones, executive director of Healthy Start; Christopher Leech, director at McKinsey & Co. and manager of its Pittsburgh office; Christopher Pappas, president and senior vice president of Styrenics at NOVA Chemical Corp.; Mark Ruscitto, president and chief executive officer of Stargate.net Inc.; and Yvonne Thompson, education consultant for the Pennsylvania Governor's School for Health Care.

Three new community advisory board members were approved: Dr. James A. Greenberg, associate professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh; Michael Jasper, business development manager at Equitable Resources; and John Schneider, president of Bill Few Associates.

No news on the sale of WQEX was announced, and none of those opposed to that sale attended the board meeting.

Upcoming WQED programs include Chris Fennimore's "C is for Comfort Food," a four-hour cooking marathon beginning at 10 a.m. Oct. 27.

"On Q" returns with original broadcasts Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m. Supervising producer David Solomon said the newsmagazine will feature a new set and a tweaked format that will emphasize taped pieces over in-studio segments.

"We're trying to make the show more uniform," Solomon said, with each episode beginning with a newsy segment, followed by an interview and concluding with a feature.

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