Friday, February 24, 2017



 1.) Fans of recently sold Triple A station WNKU have launched a “Save WNKU” campaign. As of early this week, more than 4,000 listeners have signed petitions asking Northern Kentucky University (NKU) to reconsider sale of the station to Bible Broadcasting. Though the deal has been made, it doesn’t go into effect until the FCC approves the transaction. That gives the parties some wiggle room but a change of heart by the university is not expected.

Some observers have wondered if an effort similar to “Save KPLU” in Seattle-Tacoma last year could work in Cincinnati.  As you probably recall, fans of KPLU organized a campaign to meet KPLU’s proposed sale price.  They raised over $8 million and KPLU is now independent KNKX. There has been no similar citizen campaign that has emerged yet in Cincinnati.

2.) Cincinnati TV station WCPO has confirmed that Louisville Public Media (LPM) approached NKU with a proposal to operate WNKU via a Local Management Agreement (LMA). LPM is very successful three-station cluster with the people and money to make such an arrangement happen. LPM, like Cincinnati Public Radio (who also made an LMA proposal), was rebuffed by NKU.  The university clearly had its mind made up to sell WKU regardless of the value of its music format.

Stacy Owen, program director at LPM’s Triple A station WFPK told WCPO: “A station like WNKU is so important to the local music scene and listeners who count on a format like that for music discovery and where to go locally for music.”

3.) Cincinnati Public Radio is making a good faith effort to fill the void when WNKU signs off by putting WXPN’s Exponential Radio on its HD2 signal. Both HD listeners in Cincinnati are very pleased.

4.) Former WNKU GM Chuck Miller contacted me to clarify an item in our story about the end of WNKU.  Miller to told me that NKU did do its due diligence regarding the costly acquisition of three Ohio commercial stations in 2011. Miller said that the plan, designed by Public Media Company, was fully examined by NKU and appeared to be solid. Miller said NKU soon changed the station’s plan when they made WNKU a “self supporting organization.”  This put the burden on the station to pay the debt itself.

BTW – Miller is doing fine. He is part of an organization that is in the process of restoring the Sorg Opera House, a Middletown, Ohio treasure. He misses friends in public media. Chuck Miller can be contacted at

5.) Aaron Read decided to be “the adult in the room” with this comment:

“As a person deeply involved in LMA's at RIPR, and having worked with one at WEOS, I sympathize with WNKU's plight but I'm not as sanguine about how CPR's offer of LMA'ing was a true "lifeline".

When you're a license-holder, the onus is still on you for everything. Sure, CPR might've assumed all the costs but it's nevertheless a lot of work for NKU to maintain legal compliance. Plus WNKU had an awful lot of debt. That debt creates optics that are difficult to manage when the University is fundraising for other needs. "Hey, you wasted $6 million on that stupid radio station, why should I give you $1 million for that new chemistry lab you want?"

If CPR were expressly offering to *purchase* WNKU in a "lease to own" arrangement that involved an LMA over, say, three or five years to give CPR time to raise the money to make the final purchase? That might be a somewhat different story. Even then, though, I can't really blame NKU for just wanting to get out of the game.”

KEN SAYS: Aaron is correct. From Northern Kentucky University’s point of view, the sale of WNKU makes sense.  When the FCC approves the sale (which is expected in two to three months) they will be able to take a contingent liability off their books.

Despite the community outrage over NKU’s actions, NKU has the right to sell the FCC license anytime to almost anyone they choose. Look at it this way, soon there will be one less “accidental broadcaster” to screw things up.


All of the feedback I have received regarding yesterday’s story about Podtrac has been supportive of my assertion that the company’s top podcast charts are not ready for prime time.  For instance, Dan Costello commented:

“Even if they [Podtrac] have good download data, that doesn't mean there is any way to accurately convert downloads to listening time. NPR One and other similar apps data shows that people drop off a podcast the longer it goes. Boring episodes or episodes that don't hook listeners quickly get skipped. How would you ever get any of this information from just download data? You absolutely cannot. All they have is download data, and that isn't very complete itself either.

Here's an anecdote from my experience. I read a recommendation for a podcast that sounded interesting to me, so I subscribed. My podcast software is set to grab five episodes when I subscribe, and then hold up to 20 unlistened episodes before deletion. By the time I got around to checking this show out, it was a month later and I had nine episodes. I listened to part of one episode, found it wasn't for me, and unsubscribed. Nine downloads, and only one partial listen. A show with lots of recommendations and good reviews may get a big bump in subscriptions and downloads, but there are likely to be a good number of people who try but don't like it. How long before they unsubscribe? It could easily be weeks or even months and yet they keep getting counted.”


Another of public radio’s “greatest generation,” Cleve Callison, GM of WHQR, Wilmington, North Carolina, has announced that he plans to retire from the station in August.

Callison impresses me as one of the hardest workers in the biz. I and others were so impressed the way he rebounded after the sale of WMUB, Oxford, Ohio to Cincinnati Public Radio cost him his job.  Callison stayed visible, kept in touch with colleagues and didn’t give up hope as he searched for another public media gig.

About a decade ago he took the top job at WHQR when this station was on the ropes. The community station was deeply in debt and there was infighting between board members.

Through his leadership and personal example, Callison brought focus and hope to WHQR, paid off the debt, made peace with various factions and turned WHQR into an admirable success. Under his guidance, WHQR added a Classical station via an early HD-to-FM translator plan which allowed the main signal to switch to all news.  Well done, Cleve.

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