Duquesne University began exploring the creation of a FM radio station throughout the 1940s. In early 1949, studio space was allocated on the second floor of the University Administration building, radio equipment was purchased and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the licensing of WDUQ at a frequency of 89.3 FM.

 

WDUQ’s first General Manager, B. Kendall Crane

After several months of trial operation at 10 watts, the station officially went on the air at 6 p.m., Thursday, December 15, 1949 with increased power from 10 to 2750 watts and a new frequency of 91.5 FM. WDUQ’s broadcast schedule was 3 to 9 p.m., seven days a week. In 1950, B. Kendall Crane became the first station manager.

WDUQ began as a student broadcasting laboratory. The station exposed students to new technology and gave local audiences access to cultural programs and information. Over the years, many professional broadcasters and journalists got their start while a student at WDUQ. Today, student interns and assistants continue to work with the professional staff in various areas of programming, operations and administration.

The history of WDUQ also reflects the development of radio on the FM band. During the station’s first twenty years, AM radio was more readily available on household radios, and there were ongoing discussions as to whether WDUQ should move to an AM frequency. However, in the mid-1960s, FM radio became more widely available to consumers. By 1969, there were 2,100 FM stations and 4,200 AM stations on the air across the United States. U.S. automakers were installing FM receivers in cars at a rising rate of 25% a year. The WDUQ decision to stay on the FM band proved to be timely in the ever changing world of mass communications. In October 1969, the FCC approved the change of the WDUQ transmitter site to Mt. Washington with an increase in power to 25,000 watts and the change of frequency to 90.5 FM.

 

WDUQ car in 1958 parade

The history of WDUQ also parallels the development and growth of non-commercial, public radio across the United States. In 1963, thirty-one new, noncommercial FM radio stations began broadcasting across the country. In 1967, 26 new stations were added and in 1968, 36 new educational licenses were granted. In 1967, The Carnegie Commission report recommended the development of a national public broadcasting network and asked Congress to help support the system. WDUQ joined the newly formed Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) in 1971.

WDUQ joined the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB) in 1950. The station formed partnerships with other NAEB station in the United States, including WNYC, New York and WILL in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois at the University of Illinois. A “bicycle” tape network of educational stations shared programming in this manner until the late 1970s.

Student broadcasters at WDUQ

In 1972, WDUQ increased its coverage area significantly with a power increase from 2,750 to 25,000 watts.