Thursday, April 7, 2016


Northern Kentucky University (NKU) President Geoffrey Mearns announced earlier this week that the university is exploring the possibility of selling WKKU.  The primary reasons according to Mearns: Financial cuts by the state of Kentucky to the university and the university’s desire to discontinue subsidies to the station.

According to the Cincinnati Business Journal [link] Northern Kentucky University's subsidy to WNKU-FM has averaged $600,000 annually over the last five years. The subsidy rose to $900,000 in 2015. The university’s Board of Regents is preparing to distribute a RFP to brokers for the proposed sale.

Last week, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin announced an immediate 4.5 percent cut to higher education funding across the board. That amounts to $2.2 million for NKU. The university is now considering an end to subsidies to help make up for the state cuts.  A NKU spokesperson said:

 “We have a responsibility to explore whether that subside is one the University can continue to afford, in light of our state funding picture.”

The reason that the subsidies have grown is the need for the university to pay back a $6.75 million loan from 2011. The money was used to purchase of three commercial stations outside of Cincinnati that repeat WNKU’s programming. The additional coverage area did not bring in enough new revenue to service the debt.


 The NPR News, Classical and Triple A trifecta has proven valuable in Minneapolis, Louisville and Denver because each format draws different demographics.

Cincinnati Public Radio (CPR) has expressed interest in WNKU in the past.  About a dozen years ago I was a paid consultant to WNKU when the station was evolving from a dual-format that aired NPR news magazines to a 24/7 Triple A music format. The acquisition of WNKU was not pursued because CPR was in the process of acquiring WVXU.

CPR now owns and operates Classical station WGUC and NPR News on WVXU. CPR also owns WMUB in Oxford, Ohio, which is now a fulltime repeater of WVXU.

CPR can certainly afford WNKU.  According to a financial report on its website, CPR has become a very, very successful organization. In FY 2015, CPR had annual revenue of $8.2 million and its net assets were worth over $25.5 million.

WNKU does not post its financial reports online as required by           CPB. WNKU’s annual revenue is thought to be around $2.6 including the NKU subsidy.  WNKU could certainly benefit from CPR’s fundraising ability. In 2015 CPR brought in $4.6 million from members and over $2.0 from underwriters.



Stitcher, a podcast portal and consulting company, tabulates a weekly chart of the most listened-to podcasts [link].  On the most recent chart, podcasts that originated from public media organizations held 15 of the top 20 spots. NPR had five of the top 20; WNYC and WBEZ each had two of the top 20.

Stitcher is one of several organizations that publish top podcast charts.  There are often discrepancies between the charts because they use different sources for data and measure using different metrics. 

Specific numbers are seldom available so it is difficult to say how much difference there is between #1 and #20.

Despite these limitations, it is clear that public radio and television providers are the industry leaders.  Podcasts succeed for many of the same reasons public media succeeds: They provide content that listeners value and will support.



The Nonprofit Times [link] reports that nonprofit organizations experienced significant hiring growth during the Great Recession. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonprofit sector hiring accounted for more than 11.4 million jobs between 2007 and 2014.

Depending upon the state or location, nonprofit careers seem to be more plentiful in certain areas than others. The report says nonprofit employment is most popular in New York City area where almost 18% of the workforce is employed by nonprofit.  The lowest percentage of nonprofit employment was in Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, Wyoming and Nevada.

The report says nonprofits and other volunteer-based organizations should be ready to hire new employees as the job market continues to improve. While nonprofit salaries tend to be lower than for-profit comapnies, many noncoms offer competitive benefits packages.

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