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WNKU Will No Longer Broadcast if FCC Approves Sale

This story has been updated with comment from WNKU.

The end is near for WNKU.

The Board of Regents at Northern Kentucky University, which owns the station, voted on Tuesday morning to sell the station to a religious broadcaster.

If approved by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), WNKU would no longer broadcast, NKU President Geoffrey Mearns said.

"For more than thirty years, WNKU-FM has been a part of our University and our community," Mearns said in a message to the campus community. "Over that period of time, however, our university has also heavily subsidized its operations. Last year, that subsidy was approximately $1 million. Over the past six years, the university subsidy provided to operate WNKU has totaled approximately $4.4 million.

"As we continue to wrestle with various financial challenges, I concluded that we could no longer justify using our resources – our students’ tuition and our state appropriation – to subsidize WNKU’s operations."

Mearns is set to depart his role as NKU's president to take over the top job at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.

The proposed sale includes WNKU-FM and WNKE/WPAY. "We anticipate that the FCC will approve the sales in the coming months," Mearns said. "If the sales are approved, WNKU will cease to broadcast. While the sales are pending with the FCC, our (human resources) staff will work closely with the employees who are directly affected by this decision on a transition plan, including severance."

WNKU shared its feelings about the news in a post on the station's Instagram page:

You may have heard by now that our owner, Northern Kentucky University, has authorized the sale of WNKU (89.7 FM) and WNKE (104.1 FM). In these challenging financial times for higher education, NKU is no longer able to subsidize the operations of WNKU. 

We expect that the WNKU and WNKE frequencies will be sold to new owners and that the FCC will approve the sale. Sometime in the coming months, once the sales are finalized, WNKU and its affiliated stations will go off the air. 

Until that process is complete, our promise to you is that we will continue to discover new music, support local music, and bring you new discoveries every day. 
In the meantime, if you are a sustaining member contributing monthly to WNKU via a credit card, please rest assured that there will be no further charges made to your account. 

Thank you for inviting us into your homes and your lives for the past three decades. Thank you for supporting us. It has been an honor to bring public radio and local music to the airwaves with your support, and we have enjoyed every minute of it.

NKU first announced that it would explore sale options last year, five years after WNKU's signal expansion took place through the purchase of WPFB in Middletown, Oh. and WPAY in Portsmouth, Oh. 

The apparent increase in signal reach did not improve the station's financial situation.

On Tuesday, supporters of the station - known for its support of local musicians - rallied on NKU's campus prior to the Board of Regents' decision. 

Board of Regents chairman Rich Boehne expressed sadness in the decision. 

“It’s painful to let go of something that has reflected so well our deep commitment to this region," Boehne said in a statement. "Hearing those call letters, the voices, and, of course, that music has helped weave the NKU brand into the fabric of our core geographic market. However, the media world is shifting dramatically and these terrestrial radio voices no longer provide effective access to our most important constituents – students, current and future, as well as those who influence their decisions and those who support our university’s mission in other ways. Our ability today to touch our core audiences through highly efficient social media alone greatly out-weighs the benefit of a substantial ongoing financial investment in radio.” 

"I, too, recognize the role WNKU has played on our campus and in our community," Mearns said. "But much on our campus and in higher education has changed over the past thirty years. In these challenging economic times, we must continue to direct our resources to support our core mission: the education of our students. Thank you for all that you do to support them each day."

WNKU first went on the air in 1985.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher

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