WNKU Stops The Music Friday On FM 89.7

Aug 15, 2017

Update 8/17/17 at 8:40 p.m.:  Northern Kentucky University issued a press release Thursday evening stating WNKU's programming on 89.7 FM will end Friday morning at 8:59 a.m.

Original post: It's the beginning of the end.

WNKU-FM stops broadcasting on its original frequency (FM 89.7) at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 19 – although the station's beloved adult album alternative (Triple-A) format will continue to be heard throughout most of Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati on Middletown's powerful WNKN-FM (105.9) and streamed on line.

Northern Kentucky University sold the campus frequency -- dating back to April 29, 1985 -- to the Bible Broadcasting Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., for $1.9 million in cash on Feb. 14.

WNKU-FM has broadcast from Landrum Hall since signing on in 1985.
Credit John Kiesewetter

Bible Broadcasting literally will stop the music on the station after 32 years. The frequency is expected to be silent for a few days before listeners hear Bible teaching and devotional shows called "Daily Bible Reading," "Bible Study Time," "Our Daily Bread," "Bible Quiz Question," "Prayer For Our Nation," "To God Be The Glory," "Words of Praise" and "News and Good News."

Don't expect to hear any emotional goodbyes Friday.

Why? Because the music hosts -- Liz Felix, Aaron Sharpe, Gary Keegan, Pam Temple and Sledge-- will continue playing the same music from WNKU-FM's original Landrum Hall studio until new owners take over Middletown FM in late October, says Sharpe, interim general manager and former development director who started at the station in 1999 as a student.

Credit John Kiesewetter

"The plan is to operate 'business as usual' on 105.9 and streaming until they close on the Middletown station. For that reason, ending broadcasts on 89.7 will be unceremonious," Sharpe says.

"They" are Jeff Ziesmann and his Grant County Broadcasting Co., which operates classic country WNKR-FM (106.7) in Dry Ridge. Ziesmann will pay $4 million cash, plus $1.3 million in advertising time, for the former WPFB-FM, a blowtorch commercial frequency which reaches from Florence, Ky., to north of Dayton, OH.

"Business as usual" since March has meant operating with only six staffers (four full-time and two part-time), down from 22. Katie Laur, Oakley Scot, "Mr. Rhythm Man," Ken Hanes and other weekend hosts were let go in March, along with membership and fund-raising folks.

"The university's expectation was that we would streamline things, because we weren't fund-raising anymore," says Sharpe says.  He's one of the four full-timers, along with Felix, Keegan and office staffer Teresa McQueen. Temple and Sledge are part-time. Some of the vacant space has been converted into two new NKU classrooms.

Remodeling underway down the hall from WNKU-FM.
Credit John Kiesewetter

Felix wasn't ready for a  l-o-n-g goodbye. But she's happy to stay with the ship until the voyage ends.

"It's been weird, because this process has been so long. Maybe it's longer than this process would usually take because three stations are involved," Felix says. "We thought it (the deal) would be closed in March, which is why we let all the weekend people go. But they all had a chance to say goodbye, which usually doesn't happen (in radio)."

In 2011, the university purchased Middletown's WPFB-FM (105.9) and WPFB-AM (910) and Portsmouth's WPAY-FM (104.1) for $6.75 million to expand WNKU's audience and potential membership income.  The university started exploring selling off the radio assets last year because they were not financially self-sufficient.

--Two weeks ago, in very early August, the Educational Media Foundation took over Portsmouth's WNKE-FM (104.1) and started airing the contemporary Christian K-LOVE music. Regents voted to sell the former WPAY-FM to EMF for $700,000 cash on Feb. 14. In the same meeting, Regents sold WNKU-FM to Bible Broadcasting.

Portsmouth's WNKE-FM and Middletown's WPFB-AM deleted from WNKU-FM's "legal ID" read by music hosts. WNKU-FM will be scratched out on Aug. 19.
Credit John Kiesewetter

--Middletown's old WPFB-AM (910) was sold last year to Catholic Sacred Heart Radio (also heard on 740 AM and Hamilton's FM 89.5). By the end of October, Ziesmann should take over the Middletown FM. His WNKR-FM is staffed by Cincinnati radio veterans Jim LaBarbara, Larry B, Peter Z (Zolnowski) and Jay Anthony. Ziesmann has not yet announced a format for the Middletown station. 

Credit John Kiesewetter

So for now, it's "business as usual."  WNKU-FM will continue to play The National, Dawg Yawp, The Shins, Over the Rhine, Afghan Wigs, Mad Anthony, Lucinda Williams, The Mountain Goats, The Hiders, The Cure, Gorillaz, Kings of Leon, Josh Ritter, Steve Earle, John Legend, Captain Sensible, Walk The Moon, Spoon and New Moons. 

If you love 89.7, move on up the dial to 105.9. Change the pre-set buttons on your car radio. You'll be surprised how strong – maybe even better – the Middletown signal is in most of Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati.

Savor every moment.

It's the beginning of the end.

SEND ME YOUR FAVORITE WNKU MEMORIES

What's your favorite memories of WNKU-FM? Email them to me at johnkiese@yahoo.com. I'm compiling remembrances for a blog or two before the station vanishes into thin air in October.