On Tuesday, the Northern Kentucky University Board of Regents voted to sell WNKU-FM to the Bible Broadcasting Corporation for $1.9 million.
WNKU has been on the air at 89.7 FM since 1985. When NKU purchased WNKU-FM, WNKE-FM and WNKN-FM in 2011, the number of listeners increased to 3.1 million.
However, this expansion created a huge debt for NKU, now totaled at $5.1 million. WNKE will also be sold for $700,000 to Educational Media Foundation.
The sales will cover the debt and prevent the university from future subsidies of the station that come at the expense of its students.
Many students and faculty at NKU tried to save their radio station through a rally and a petition that had more than 3,600 signatures.
The sale must be approved by the Federal Communications Commission, which could take months. WNKU will stay on the air until that approval.
Now WNKU is added to the list of other stations sold by their universities, including Miami University and Georgetown College. This raises questions for student and faculty who support WUKY (91.3 FM) in Lexington, Kentucky, and WEKY (1340 AM) in Richmond, Kentucky.
UK owns WUKY while Wallingford Communications owns WEKY, but the station is connected to Eastern Kentucky University.
WUKY General Manager Tom Godell said he believes WUKY will not be affected in the same way as WNKU.
“University of Kentucky’s administration is strong and supportive of WUKY,” Godell said.
In 2016, WUKY won a Lexington Music Award for Community Service. Godell said he is proud of WUKY’s efforts to serve Lexington by broadcasting news on the radio, its website and its Facebook page.
“This is what people value. If there’s self-support for our station by students, administration and our listeners then there is no reason for the administration to take away WUKY,” Godell said.
UK Vice President for University of Relations Tom Harris said he hopes WUKY will not join the list of sold radio stations.
“We are a listener-supported radio, so our goal is to connect with the community and serve our listeners. If that happens we hope those listeners and businesses will continue to support their radio station,” Harris said. “I think public radio, and WUKY in particular, provides a unique public service, but we also need the community to help support that service.”