Pittsburgh TV deal languishes

A commercial broadcaster aiming to convert a Pittsburgh public station to
for-profit operation said Federal Communications Commission foot-dragging is
needlessly running up her expenses and jeopardizing prospects for the new

Diane Sutter, owner of ShootingStar Inc., petitioned to buy WQEX channel 16
in January 2001. The station is one of two public stations in the city operated
by WQED Pittsburgh.

The deal was opposed by a coalition of local citizens and independent
advocates for public broadcasting, which want the FCC to solicit applications
for channel 16's license from other public-station operators.

Sutter's agreement with WQED expires Dec. 31.

Two earlier deals to spin off WQEX have fallen though. Plans to sell to
another commercial owner were rejected by the FCC six years ago. And a 1999
attempt to turn the station over to religious broadcasters in a complicated
three-way swap with Paxson Communications Corp. fell apart after many in
Congress attacked accompanying FCC guidelines for operation of noncommercial
stations by religious broadcasters.