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Grant County Broadcasters buys Northern Kentucky University's Middletown radio station for $5.3M

Posted: 9:24 AM, Jul 20, 2017
Updated: 2017-07-20 13:41:07Z

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. -- After five months of uncertainty over the future of WNKU's Middletown signal, Northern Kentucky University has sold 105.9 FM (WNKN) to Grant County Broadcasters, Inc.

NKU's Board of Regents accepted a bid Wednesday that offered $4 million in cash and $1.3 million in advertising time on Grant County Broadcasters' stations, which include Dry Ridge's  WNKR Classic Country .

RELATED: Northern Kentucky University selling WNKU radio station to religious broadcasting company

"The main thing we’re happy about is this is a local buyer to Northern Kentucky," said NKU spokesperson Anna Wright. "We had four bids submitted and we went with the bid that made the most financial sense for our students. In this time of tight budgets, we have to serve our community."

NKU announced the sale of WNKU's signals in Highland Heights and Portsmouth, Ohio,  to religious broadcasters in February, saying the escalating financial costs of operating the radio stations were not central to the university's educational mission.

WNKU remains on the air until final approval by the Federal Communications Commission, which Wright anticipates will come in August or September. She said the timeline for WNKN's transfer to Grant County Broadcasters will also depend on the FCC approval process.

In May, Louisville Public Media President  Michael Skoler expressed dismay that the university had denied his organization's $5 million bid to "preserve the public service mission of WNKU.”

"We are deeply disappointed by Northern Kentucky University’s decision and the likely loss of WNKU’s proud tradition of serving the region’s music and cultural community," Skoler wrote. Read his full letter here .

Grant County Broadcasters General Manager and CEO Jeff Ziesmann said their goal is to "provide stable, high-quality, locally produced programming to the greatest number of listeners in the WNKN coverage area," which stretches from Dayton to Cincinnati. He said that means local ownership, a locally produced format, local jobs and, as a commercial operation, local tax revenue.

The company will convert the station back to for-profit, commercial operation and is researching which format will return the best possible ratings and revenue for the station. Ziesmann said they are looking at all their programming options, including the adult album alternative (triple-A) format currently on the station. However, he said the market will determine the station's future direction.

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. Our goal is to bring that same commitment to quality radio to the Ohio portion of our market, in whatever form best serves it," Ziesmann said.