WNKU Call Letters Return To Cincinnati Airwaves With Different Format
The WNKU call letters that vanished from Tri-State airwaves in 2017 when Northern Kentucky University sold its radio stations have returned to Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.
The low-power classic rock station on FM 92.1 switched from WCNX-LP to WNKU-LP on June 4. The station – which has only a 4.2-mile reach – has broadcast Bill Spry's ClassX format since 2014.
"We felt the WNKU call letters should stay in this market," says Spry, the founder and CEO, whose ClassX format airs on stations in Miamitown, Blue Ash, Erlanger, Covington and Waynesville.
For 32 years, Northern Kentucky University's WNKU-FM (89.7) provided an eclectic adult album alternative (Triple-A) blend of alternative, folk-rock, classical rock and bluegrass, with a strong dose of homegrown music. It was heard throughout Southwestern Ohio after WNKU bought Middletown's WPFB AM/FM and Portsmouth WPAY-FM in 2011.
Six years later, the university sold three of the network stations to religious broadcasters and the powerful Middletown FM to Grant County Broadcasters in Dry Ridge.
The university retained the call letters, studio and equipment when the Bible Broadcasting Network in Charlotte, N.C., took over the flagship station in August 2017 so the format could continue until the Middletown station was sold that October. Bible Broadcasting changed the call letters on 89.7 to WYHH-FM.
Spry says he met with NKU officials before the sale was announced in February 2017 and proposed operating the WNKU network with his ClassX format.
ClassX, broadcast from a Blue Ash studio, will remain on the Covington low-power station, which barely reaches the Norwood Lateral. The Covington station provides ClassX programming to listeners in downtown Cincinnati and the Covington-Newport area.
Spry, who started ClassX in 2006, says he is "a one-man show" with mostly volunteer DJs. He owns the Miamitown (WMWX-FM 88.9) and Waynesville (WYNS-FM 89.1) full-power stations, and sells programming to low-power affiliates in Blue Ash (WCXX-LP 105.5), Erlanger (WCXE-LP 95.5) and Covington. His website also offers an oldies (Fossil) and a new album-oriented rock/melodic rock format.
Fans of the old NKU station shouldn't expect to hear their old beloved format return to the airwaves on WNKU-LP.
"When WNKU went off the air, we picked up some listeners," Spry says. "But I didn't have many requests for it (the Triple-A format)." To bring back the Triple-A format, he would need tremendous financial support. "I'd have to have paid help. And if the money isn't there, I can't do it."
For you fans of old WNKU-FM, here are a couple stories I posted in 2017 with former staffers talking about the station’s history and legacy: "WNKU Alum Share Their Favorite Memories Of FM 89.7" and "Thanks WNKU For All The Memories And Great Music."