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WQED royalties up from previous year

Saturday, January 26, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

The nation's economic downturn is having an effect on the bottom line at WQED Pittsburgh, particularly depressing advertising sales for Pittsburgh magazine.

Though advertising revenue was down about $90,000 from a year ago, income from program royalties was up almost $340,000 from the previous year due in large part to the success of syndicating a repackaged version of "The Ed Sullivan Show."

T.J. Lubinsky, WQED executive producer of fund-raising programming, said at a board meeting Thursday night the Sullivan show has garnered high ratings in many markets, in some cases drawing as many viewers as "Antiques Roadshow." It's been renewed for two more years.

Lubinsky updated the board on future programs, including a fourth edition in the "Doo Wop" series, which will be taped at the Benedum Center May 1 and 2.

Also in development: "This Land Is Your Land," featuring folk musicians of the '60s; "Car Toons: American Car Songs," featuring songs about cars; and a new Rick Sebak program for national airing called "A Sandwich Show," which will feature America's best sandwich shops.

A deal to repackage and syndicate programs from Dick Clark's library (including "American Bandstand"), similar to the Sullivan shows, has been finalized, Lubinsky said. Specials on Dinah Shore, Doris Day and Perry Como are in development. Lubinsky also worked a deal with the BBC to put a tag at the end of its Britcoms offering episodes of the series for sale. WQED will fulfill those orders and receive a cut of the proceeds.

In addition, Chris Fennimore's cooking programs are being repackaged for distribution to stations nationally under the title "America's Home Cooking." He said the "QED Cooks" programs are an important way to connect viewers to their public television stations by sharing recipes with other viewers.

"It's important for us to export this method, this pledge trick," Fennimore said. "Why people respond to it is not because anyone needs more recipes. It gives people a chance to share with us the things that are important to them."

Fennimore's latest local special, "Crockpot Cooking," will air on WQED on March 2.

Classical music station WQED-FM will look to open a satellite studio in Downtown's Cultural District. WQED is working with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust to find a street-level space for the studio, which would be operated during cultural events and could possibly include interviews with artists performing at Downtown venues.

WQED is also considering adding a WQED-FM repeater north of Pittsburgh to extend service to the Slippery Rock area.

WQED vice president and station manager B.J. Leber told the board that WQED will air an upcoming "Frontline" report on the pornography industry (9 p.m. Feb. 7) unedited, but with many on-air warnings. The program shows no sex acts, but reports on the industry and some of the descriptions in the film are "tough to watch" and disturbing, Leber said. "On Q" will air a complementary report to the "Frontline" program.

The WQED board elected a new director, Frank Cahouet, retired chairman of Mellon Bank. The board also voted to approve a new revolving credit agreement with Citizens Bank, formerly Mellon Bank, for $4 million under better terms than its previous agreement.

WQED's biggest creditor remains PBS, to which it owes $2.5 million for 1999 and 2002 programming fees. The 2002 fees are due in April.

WQED president George Miles said the company's final filing in support of its plan to de-reserve and sell sister station WQEX was sent to the Federal Communications Commission this week. There's no time frame for when the FCC will make a decision.

Two opponents of the sale of WQEX attended the board meeting but did not speak. Two representatives of the cable access program "The Art of News," who ally themselves with opponents to the sale, videotaped the board meeting for use in an upcoming telecast.

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