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City of license Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Broadcast area Pittsburgh metropolitan area
Branding 90.5 WESA
Slogan Pittsburgh's NPR News Station
Frequency 90.5 MHz (also on HD Radio)90.5 HD-2 for Jazz 24/7
90.5 HD-3 for BBC World Service
First air date 1949 (as WDUQ)
Format Public radio
ERP 25,000 watts
HAAT 146 meters
Class B
Facility ID 17747
Callsign meaning ESsentiAl
Former callsigns WDUQ (1949-2011)
Affiliations National Public Radio
Public Radio International
American Public Media
Owner Essential Public Media
Sister stations WYEP
Webcast Listen Live
Website WESA-FM

WESA (90.5 FM, Pittsburgh's NPR News Station) is a public radio and news radio station based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The station broadcasts at 90.5 MHz with an ERP of 25 kW. WESA is a full member station of National Public Radio and is also affiliated with Public Radio International and American Public Media.


  • History 1
  • Recent history and relationship with Duquesne University 2
    • Continuation of jazz on Pittsburgh radio 2.1
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Prior to being WESA, the station had the callsign WDUQ, owned by Duquesne University. As of fall 2001, WDUQ was the most listened-to public radio outlet in Pittsburgh.[1]

WDUQ began broadcasting on December 15, 1949 as a student laboratory on the Duquesne University campus, exposing students to new technology and giving local audiences access to cultural programs and information. As each decade passed, WDUQ evolved as public radio grew and changed across the United States.

WDUQ was the home of the popular NPR news programs such as Morning Edition and All Things Considered as well as Car Talk and other programs. The station also had a significant local and regional news effort, including in-depth coverage of a variety of issues. The station also produced and distributed programming heard on public radio stations nationwide. It was also known as the main outlet for jazz in Pittsburgh.

The station began carrying the programming of the newly formed Radio Information Service in 1976, a reading service for the visually impaired and print-handicapped on a sub-carrier channel. WDUQ entered into a management agreement to handle RIS's day-to-day business operations in late 2005.

In 2006, WDUQ began to improve its signal strength to several distant communities. Broadcast translators now relay the main signal at FM 100.5 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, FM 104.1 in Somerset, Pennsylvania, FM 92.3 in New Baltimore, Pennsylvania serving the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and FM 104.1 in Ligonier, Pennsylvania.[2]

Recent history and relationship with Duquesne University

Logo of the now defunct WDUQ

In October, 2007, WDUQ engendered controversy relative to corporate underwriting it received from Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania.[3] In exchange for a gift in excess of $5000, WDUQ began airing a series of ads for Planned Parenthood on October 8, 2007 that focused on breast and cervical cancer screening, STD treatment, and abstinence education, and which did not mention abortion-related services; Planned Parenthood, however, is the largest provider of abortions in the United States.[4] On October 10, Duquesne University President Dr. Charles J. Dougherty ordered the station to return the money and cease airing the ads, citing conflict with the university's Catholic identity.[3]

Duquesne University announced in January 2010 that it would be searching for options to sell WDUQ. According to a spokesperson for the university, "Over the years, DUQ has evolved into a station that is virtually independent of the university. This could be an opportunity for Duquesne to reallocate assets for the enhancement of our educational enterprise and for the station to thrive on its own".[5] Duquesne University decided to find a qualified buyer for WDUQ and its related frequencies,[6] retaining Pittsburgh firm CMS Station Brokerage to find a buyer.[7] On January 14, 2011, it was announced that the university had accepted an offer from Essential Public Media, a joint venture between WYEP and Public Media Company, with proceeds going to support new endowed chairs in African Studies and Mission Studies and endowments for stipends for graduate students and "scholarships to increase diversity in the student body".[8][9] The station's production facility was to move to WYEP's Community Broadcast Center on the South Side and certain back-office functions were to be combined, but when asked whether the station's music format would change, WYEP board president Marco Cardamone replied, "We don't really have specifics. We understand the legacy that jazz represents in Pittsburgh."[10] WDUQ will adopt a new call sign upon the completion of the sale.[11]

On July 1, 2011, the new management implemented its new format which switched to mostly news and talk. WDUQ used to air 100 hours of jazz, but now has reduced that programming to 6 hours. The full-time jazz programing is now only available on HD radio or through the web. This created considerable controversy in Western Pennsylvania since there was now no outlet for listening to jazz on the analog FM radio.

On September 15, 2011 the sale was finalized. The new station call letters are WESA. The station operated under the branding "Essential Public Radio" for several months in 2012 before adopting the call letters as their official form of branding.

Continuation of jazz on Pittsburgh radio

Some former WDUQ staff members have stayed on to program JazzWorks, a continuation of sorts of the previous jazz format. As mentioned above, JazzWorks is featured full-time on WESA's HD2 audio channel and online. JazzWorks is also offered as a syndication package to other public radio stations nationwide.

Other former staff and management members of WDUQ went on to form The Pittsburgh Jazz Channel, a separately owned-and-operated internet streaming station. They are currently offering their jazz programming to stations around the country and as of September 2013, launched a dedicated FM broadcast outlet, WYZR 88.1, in Pittsburgh.

WYZR officially launched on September 1, 2013,[12] as a result of a November 2012 announcement by Pittsburgh Public Media (a group who unsuccessfully bid on WDUQ with the intent to retain the news-jazz-NPR format as is) to purchase the license of WVBC-FM, assigned to Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia, as a pretext to returning jazz to Pittsburgh airwaves in partnership with PubMusic, the Pittsburgh Jazz Channel's parent organization. The sale finalized in May 2013.


  1. ^ McCoy, Adrian (February 2, 2002). "Public radio keeps its place in ratings". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh). Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  2. ^ "WDUQ, radio for the blind team up". Pittsburgh Business Times (Pittsburgh). October 31, 2005. Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Hamill, Sean D (October 17, 2007). "Public Radio Station Halts Planned Parenthood Spots". The New York Times (New York). Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  4. ^ McCoy, Adrian (October 16, 2007). "WDUQ, Duquesne University draw flak on ad ban". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh). Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  5. ^ Sostek, Anya (January 8, 2010). "School trying to sell WDUQ radio". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh). Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  6. ^ Seyler, Dave (15 January 2011). "Pittsburgh noncom FM finds philosophically-desirable buyer". Radio & Television Business Report. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  7. ^ "FCC asset Purchase Agreement, Duquesne University and Essential Public Media". Federal Communications Commission (FCC). 2 May 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  8. ^ "WYEP & Public Media Co. to Acquire WDUQ" (Press release). WYEP. January 14, 2011. Retrieved January 16, 2011. 
  9. ^ WDUQ News (January 14, 2011). "Duquesne Sells 90.5 FM". WDUQ News Blog. WDUQ. Retrieved January 16, 2011. 
  10. ^ Pitz, Marylynne (January 15, 2011). "Sale signals end of era for Duquesne's WDUQ-FM: WYEP will move station to S. Side". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved January 16, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Details in on jazzy noncom Pittsburgh purchase". Radio Business Report. May 6, 2011. Retrieved May 6, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Jazz station set to launch: 88.1 WYZR-FM". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. August 30, 2013. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Query the FCC's FM station database for WESA
  • Radio-Locator information on WESA
  • Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WESA

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