Quad Cities’ station finds shelter in different halls of ivy

Posted Oct. 22, 2009
By Steve Behrens

Rather than going independent, the fiscally distressed pubTV station in Moline, Ill., will move its license to a different higher-ed institution.

Now WQPT is expected to be licensed to four-year Western Illinois University, which recently won state capital funding to start building a larger campus in Moline, on the Mississippi almost 100 miles north of WIU’s home campus in Macomb. 

Since its startup 26 years ago, serving the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois, WQPT had always been part of Moline’s public two-year, locally funded Black Hawk College. But the college ended its subsidy in fiscal 2008 and was in the process of transferring the license to a local nonprofit created by station supporters when Western Illinois officials expressed interest, General Manager Rick Best told Current.

After the boards of Black Hawk and Western Illinois approved the new deal on Oct. 15 and 16, they asked the FCC to transfer the license to Western Illinois instead.

Western Illinois spoke up when WQPT asked whether it would handle out-sourced human resources duties for the little station’s planned new nonprofit licensee, Best said.

The university won’t contribute cash to the station, but the new liaison will stabilize it, and it retains its $1 million reserve, which will help maintain cash flow. Best said WIU’s College of Fine Arts and Communications, its future overseer, may help produce some local programming for the station, which laid off its two production staffers early this year. The station’s staff has shrunk from its peak of 18 to 10 full-timers.

"Acquiring WQPT supports increased community service, visibility and marketing for Western in the Quad Cities, complements the work of academic departments; enhances fundraising efforts; and provides opportunities for resource sharing between University Television, Tri States Public Radio and WQPT," a university news release said.

The university operates Tri States Public Radio based on its main campus with transmitters in Macomb (WIUM) and Warsaw (WIUW).

In its weakened condition, WQPT has stopped vying head-to-head for PBS viewers with Iowa Public Television’s transmitter serving Davenport on the Iowa side of the Quad Cities. The two stations not only overlapped schedule-wise but also geographically; the Iowa network’s outlet shares WQPT’s tower in Moline and covers about the same region.

Early this year WQPT dropped most PBS programming, not only to save money but also to differentiate its schedule. For that purpose it also added MHz Network’s Worldview international channel on one of its digital multicast channels.

Web page posted Oct. 22, 2009
Copyright 2009 by Current LLC

EARLIER ARTICLES

College may sell Quad Cities station; nonprofit may try to buy it, 2008.

Nearly one in five public TV stations was in "fragile" fiscal health this winter, CPB said. CPB did not reveal the identity of those stations.

WQPT expected to keep channel but may also retain fiscal woes, February 2009.

LINKS

The Quad-City Times reports on WQPT's change of licensing plans.

WQPT, Quad Cities.

Western Illinois University's Tri States Public Radio, based in Macomb.

WIU's news release mentioning WQPT plans.

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