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NKU Selling Middletown Radio Station

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Sacred Heart Radio
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Northern Kentucky University is selling Middletown's WPFB-AM (910) to Sacred Heart Radio, the Catholic station broadcasting on WNOP-AM (740).

The Middletown AM station, which reaches north of Dayton and west of Oxford, will allow Sacred Heart Radio "to cover all the major cities in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. It's a monster signal during the day," says Bill Levitt, general manager. 

The deal was made before NKU announced April 5 that President Geoffrey Mearns would explore selling the university's three FM stations: WNKU-FM (89.7), Portsmouth's WNKU-FM (104.1) and Middletown's WNKN-FM (105.9).

NKU bought Middletown AM/FM combo, and Portsmouth station, five years ago.

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Credit WNKU-FM

Based in Norwood, Sacred Heart Radio will pay $450,000 for the AM station, plus a $500 monthly fee to use the Middletown tower. That's about $200,000 less than the university wanted for the AM station in two previous attempts to buy it, Levitt said.

The Federal Communications Commission has approved the transaction. The closing is Friday, Levitt said.

The religious broadcaster will install a new transmitter and processor before starting to simulcast Catholic programming in June, he said.

AM 910 will be a 24/7 simulcast of the AM 740 programming, he said. There is no capability of doing a Middletown-only feed, he said, which would allow restoring Middletown Middies or Fenwick Falcons football and basketball broadcasts that had been heard on the station until 2011.

The old farmhouse studio at 4505 Central Ave. in Middletown, originally used by broadcaster Paul F. Braden (the "PFB" in the call letters), will be torn down by NKU this summer.

Later this week, an NKU committee will review "requests for proposals" from prospective brokers who could sell the three FM stations in light of Kentucky state budget cuts. The university subsidized WNKU-FM's Triple A (adult album alternative) radio operation $900,000 last year, said Amanda Van BenshotenNageleisen, NKU director of public relations, marketing and communications.

"There is no particular timeline for the decision," she said.

In his April 5 announcement, Mearns said "no decision has been made regarding the future of WNKU." The Highland Heights flagship station is on the non-commercial band; the Middletown and Portsmouth stations are on the commercial band, which could be attractive to a commercial broadcaster.

Sacred Heart Radio started in 2001, after taking over tiny jazz station WNOP-AM. It also broadcasts in Hamilton on FM 89.5, acquired from Hamilton City Schools, and streams online. The station originates the  "Son Rise Morning Show" carried by 300 EWTN radio affiliates.