Pittsburgh Public Media acquires W.Va. FM station for jazz programming

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The FCC has approved the sale of a West Virginia college station to Pittsburgh Public Media, a jazz webcaster run by former employees of the city’s defunct WDUQ-FM.

PPM will pay $135,000 for the 1,100-watt WVBC-FM, currently operated by Bethany College in Bethany, W.Va. It plans to switch the station at 88.1 MHz to a jazz format starting in April, says Chuck Leavens, PPM president. The station now airs music and college sports.

PPM was established in 2010 in a bid to buy WDUQ, which broadcast both NPR News and jazz to southwestern Pennsylvania. But Duquesne University sold the license to Essential Public Media, a collaboration between the city’s Triple A station WYEP and a new subsidiary of Public Radio Capital. The station, now broadcasting under the call letters WESM, programs NPR News and talk programming on its primary channel; music migrated to an HD Radio channel.

PPM will operate WVBC in partnership with PubMusic, a nonprofit that has been webcasting at pghjazzchannel.org. The stream features former WDUQ staffers as hosts.

The new station reaches into southern and western Pittsburgh, and PPM hopes to upgrade the transmitter to expand its coverage. PPM also hopes to acquire additional signals, Leavens says.