Louisville Public Media: NKU rejected $5 million offer for WNKU

Local independent station’s fate remains up in the air as a religious broadcasting company awaits FCC approval

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Northern Kentucky University's board of trustees have rejected a $5 million offer from Louisville Public Media for the Middletown transmitter and105.9 FM frequency that provides WNKU programming to Greater Cincinnati and Dayton, according to a letter published at Louisville’s 91.9 WFPK website.

The offer could be the final chance to keep the 32-year-old station on the air after the university agreed to sell WNKU to Bible Broadcasting Corp. in February.

“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,” Louisville Public Media President Michael Skoler wrote in a letter posted to LPM’s website today. “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.”

Louisville Public Media’s offer included a pledge to continue support of local musicians and local music events and to hire local on-air radio hosts. LPM operates WFPK in Louisville, one of the best independent radio stations in the country and promoter of the wildly successful (and free) Waterfront Wednesday concerts on the Louisville riverfront.

In a statement given to CityBeat on Thursday, NKU did not comment on LPM's assertion that the college rejected the $5 million offer. 

"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," says the statement provided by NKU Public Relations Director Anna Wright. "Until that time, we will continue to entertain all proposals. 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."

NKU agreed in February to sell the WNKU license and transmitter site — but not its call letters — to Bible Broadcasting for $1.9 million. The deal awaits approval by the Federal Communications Commission. It sold the WNKE repeater station in New Boston, Ohio, for $700,000 to Educational Media Foundation, which runs the nationally distributed K-Love and Air 1 contemporary Christian programming.

WNKU has remained on the air since sale was announced in February. 

Fans of the station tried to persuade NKU to consider options to save WNKU even before the sale announcement. Twenty-six members of Cincinnati’s music, arts and business communities — including CityBeat Publisher Tony Frank — signed an open letter in January urging NKU to consider a sale to WFPK and describing the Louisville station as one of the best Triple-A stations — Adult Album Alternative — in the country. The letter garnered 8,765 signatures in support.

Louisville Public Media’s Skoler said it is critical for regions to have local stations that serve and promote independent musicians and cultural organizations.

“I was confident that Louisville Public Media’s expertise, back-office systems and programming experience would have allowed us to expand WNKU’s service,” wrote Skoler. “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.”

Read Skoler’s full letter here.

(This story was updated to include NKU's statement.)

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