Northern Kentucky University regents have turned down an offer by Louisville Public Media to acquire the last remaining radio signal for the university’s independent music station WNKU. The university announced in February that it had sold two other WNKU radio frequencies to religious broadcasters.
The remaining signal, 105.9 WNKN, was purchased six years ago in a bid to expand WNKU’s service. But in the face of annual operating losses, the university said a year ago that it would explore a sale of all its frequencies. It has not yet announced a buyer for 105.9.
Louisville Public Media offered the university $5 million, in a mix of cash and services aimed at preserving 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,” wrote LPM President Michael Skoler in a letter to WNKU fans who had asked for help in saving the station. “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.”
The full text of Skoler’s letter follows.
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 ten 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