Future of Pittsburgh Reading Service Murky

Fate tied to sale of WDUQ
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Fate tied to sale of WDUQ

The outlook for a radio reading service for the blind and visually impaired in the Pittsburgh area is unclear, a consequence of the pending sale of WDUQ(FM).

The 35-year-old Radio Information Service is based at the station studios on the campus of WDUQ licensee Duquesne University. The university announced the sale of WDUQ to Essential Public Media in January and the FCC is reviewing the deal.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports WDUQ picked up some of the reading service programming when the non-profit board that ran the reading service stopped operating in August 2009 because of debt. At the time, about 800 people subscribed to the service, according to the account.

Since 2009, the reading service has relied on volunteers to continue broadcasting. Its audio programs are broadcast on FM subcarrier and heard on special receivers, as well as on the Web, a dial-in service and a local cable service, according to the RIS website.

Essential Public Media is a subsidiary of WYEP(FM), Pittsburgh. WYEP GM Lee Ferraro told the paper he was unsure of the future for the service beyond July. He said it would be broadcast through the next month and would not be affected by programming changes that began over the holiday weekend.

“The group that was responsible for the RIS went away,” Ferraro told the paper, referring to the RIS board, which folded. “This is not our program, but we are willing to help and donate the subcarrier to broadcast the programming.”

The paper interviewed a reading service volunteer who said there have been numerous cuts to the service over the years and RIS listeners should be bitter if the service ends.


Reading Service Imperiled In Oregon

“It’s worrisome because it sets a precedent,” said Heather Lusignan, immediate past president of IAAIS. Reading service organizers say the OPB decision ignores the needs of older, visually-impaired, less technology-literate people.