HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. -- An attempt to “save” the final remaining radio signal for Northern Kentucky University’s station WNKU has been denied, according to Louisville Public Media.
But there's been no official vote yet, according to an NKU representative.
The university announced in February that it would sell two of the independent radio station’s frequencies to religious broadcasters in a money-saving move. No decision was made at the time regarding the 105.9 FM frequency (WNKN) in Middletown.
Immediately following the announcement, Louisville Public Media (LPM) put together a $5 million bid for that signal “aimed at preserving the public service mission of WNKU” as a platform for Greater Cincinnati's local musicians.
On Wednesday morning, LPM President Michael Skoler relayed the university's decision via email to fans who had pleaded that they save WNKU. He said the broker managing their bid told them their offer had been declined.
“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. “We offered a fiscally responsible way for the board to protect university resources and still preserve the important service it had created and nurtured for 32 years.”
Anna Wright, NKU director of public relations, commented only that the Board of Regents hasn't yet voted on the final sale of WNKN.
"NKU is in the middle of an active process to sell WNKN-Middletown that is ongoing until the Board of Regents votes on it, which will be a matter of public record. Until that time, we will continue to entertain all proposals," Wright said in an emailed statement. "Given these challenging economic times for public education, we will choose the best option that supports our mission of delivering an affordable, quality education that our students deserve."
CincyMusic.com had encouraged WNKU fans to sign its online petition to "Save WNKU," which jumped from 3,400 signatures the morning of Feb. 14 to 7,800 supporters by one week later. That petition currently stands at 8,765 signees.
Editor Courtney Phenicie of CincyMusic said Wednesday's setback is disappointing, but that hasn't dampened their hopes that another buyer will step up to sustain WNKU's format for the community.
"Every major city has a station just like WNKU. It’s important for community growth and outreach to have a station that’s in town -- most of the other stations that we have, they’re not even based here," Phenicie said. "There's really nowhere else that we can hear as much local music as they play, so that's detrimental for the local music scene, which is huge here."
The full text of Skoler’s letter is reproduced with permission below:
Friends of WNKU,
Many of you contacted us to ask if we could help save WNKU. I’m sad to write that Northern Kentucky University regents have turned down our offer to acquire the assets and last remaining radio signal for the university’s groundbreaking, but financially challenged, independent music station.
Louisville Public Media offered the university $5 million, with $3.5 million in cash and $1.5 million in services aimed at maintaining the academic mission of WNKU through on-campus music events, student learning opportunities and broadcasting internships. The deal included 10 years of on-air promotion for the university in Cincinnati, Dayton and Louisville and would have purchased the 105.9 WNKN frequency.
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. We offered a fiscally responsible way for the board to protect university resources and still preserve the important service it had created and nurtured for 32 years.
We know from our experience running 91.9 WFPK for central Kentucky and southern Indiana how critical it is to have a local station that serves, promotes, and anchors independent musicians and cultural organizations. WFPK’s program director Stacy Owen is a graduate of NKU and once served as music director and host at WNKU. She planned to employ local radio hosts in Cincinnati, promote music by local bands and sponsor hundreds of music events in the area to support the independent music scene as she has done in the Louisville area.
I was confident that Louisville Public Media’s expertise, back-office systems and programming experience would have allowed us to expand WNKU’s service. More than 8,700 WNKU fans signed a petition to save the station. Their support, along with support expressed by community businesses and cultural groups, would have enabled us to pay off the loan needed to acquire the station and run the station in the black.
We are proud of our community-supported stations 89.3 WFPL News, 90.5 WUOL Classical and 91.9 WFPK Independent, along with our growing reach in the region. Four years ago, we started the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, which shares its in-depth coverage with news outlets across the state. We participate in the Kentucky Public Radio Network, which included WNKU, and we manage the Ohio Valley ReSource, a collaboration of Kentucky stations, West Virginia Public Broadcasting and Athens, Ohio station WOUB.
Please know that we remain committed to using our airwaves and resources to connect people in the region through trusted independent news, music and cultural events. At a time when our country seems divided, we strive to remind people of all that we share.
Thank you for your support and being with us on this journey,
Michael Skoler, President
Louisville Public Media