The seller is noncommercial WQED, which has been trying to spin off the station since the mid-1990s. More than a decade ago, Ion, as Paxson Communications, had tried to acquire the station, but that deal ran into opposition from public TV advocates.
After nearly a decade and a half of trying, it looks as if noncommercial WQED Pittsburgh may finally have a deal to spin off WQEX, its second station now airing ShopNBC.
According to an FCC filing seeking approval of the deal, the buyer is Ion Media and the price is $3 million. Pittsburgh (DMA 23) is one of only 11 top 50 markets where Ion doesn’t have a station.
Ion, in its original incarnation as Paxson Communications, had tried to acquire WQEX in the late 1990s in a complicated three-way deal involving a local religious station, but the deal fell apart amid protests by local public television advocates.
WQED eventually won FCC permission to sell WQEX to a commercial broadcaster and in 2002 it thought it had a deal to sell it for $20 million to Diane Sutter, a Pittsburgh native and former head of the Shamrock Broadcasting TV group. The deal collapsed for financial reasons.
However, Sutter went on to purchase WNDS Boston (now WZMY) for $28 million two years later.