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Dry Ridge-Based WNKR Buys Second Station from NKU

A Northern Kentucky radio broadcaster has purchased a station from Northern Kentucky University.

It just happens to be in Middletown, Oh.

Grant County Broadcasters, operators of WNKR, the Dry Ridge-based classic country station found at 106.7-FM, announced its purchase of WNKN 105.9-FM from NKU. The sale is part of the university's decision to end WNKU, the popular adult album alternative (AAA) station, that broadcast on 89.7-FM for decades. WNKN, formerly WFPB, was purchased by NKU in 2011, along with WNKE (formerly WPAY) 104.1-FM in Portsmouth, Oh., in an effort to increase WNKU's reach. NKU sold its 89.7 signal and WPAY to a religious broadcaster for $1.9 million in February after the university determined that it could no longer subsidize the operation.

WNKN was not inlcued in the original sale. WVXU's John Kiesewetter reported that the NKU Board of Regents on Wednesday agreed to sell to Grant County Broadcasters for $4 million in cash and $1.3 million in advertising.

Grant County Broadcasters announced its purchase on Thursday morning.

“Our company is pleased to maintain this heritage station as a locally owned and operated station," said General Manager & CEO Jeff Ziesmann. "Our goal is to provide stable, high quality, locally-produced programming to the greatest number of listeners in the WNKN coverage area. That means local ownership, a locally-produced format, local jobs, and, as a commercial operation, local taxes.”

In the announcement, Ziesmann said that “the company will convert the station back to for-profit, commercial operation and is doing research that will determine the format that will present the best possible ratings and revenue opportunity for the station. We are looking at all of our programming options, including, but certainly not limited to, the AAA format currently on the station. However, the market will determine the future direction of the station.”

The forthcoming loss of the AAA format at WNKU upset its longtime listeners and efforts to bring such a format to the market have included Louisville Public Media's rejected offer to make a purchase from NKU, as well as WVXU's launch of a digital AAA station.

Grant County Broadcasters has owned and operated WNKR-FM at 106.7 FM in Northern Kentucky since that station’s inception in 1992. “WNKR has enjoyed considerable support from both listeners and advertisers in Northern Kentucky during our tenure there," Zeismann said. "Our goal is to bring that same commitment to quality radio to the Ohio portion of our market, in whatever form best serves it."

From 1988 until its sale to Northern Kentucky University and being renamed WNKN, WPFB was branded as The Rebel, and played contemporary country music.
NKU released a statement on the sale.

“On Wednesday afternoon, the Board of Regents approved the sale of WNKN-FM Middletown to Grant County Broadcasters, Inc. for $5.3 million dollars. We are pleased to have reached this agreement with a northern Kentucky broadcaster that satisfies our financial responsibility to our students. Grant County Broadcasters is committed to local programming. We feel this is the best outcome for the local community and WNKN-FM Middletown listeners. This now concludes the sale of all three stations: WNKU-FM, WNKE-FM and WNKN-FM.” Anna Wright, Director of Public Relations.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher