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HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky.  – The final paperwork has been signed by Northern Kentucky University President James Votruba for the university to take full ownership of WPFB 105.9 FM and 910 AM in Middletown, Ohio and WPAY 104.1 FM in Portsmouth, Ohio.

In 1985, NKU launched the award-winning music and news station, WNKU, on a non-commercial FM frequency of 89.7 mHz. Being one of the last available frequencies in Greater Cincinnati, it was limited to 12,000 watts directional to the south. From the time it first signed on the air, WNKU struggled to be heard due to its poor signal strength. 

“Year after year, the number one complaint we heard was in regards to signal strength and reach,” says Station Manager Chuck Miller. “It got to the point where we eventually had to post reception tips on our website just to be proactive about it.”

Upon Miller’s arrival to WNKU in December 2007, he made signal expansion his top priority. In 2009, he reached out to Public Radio Capital, a nonprofit that provides consulting services for expanding and financing public media. In 2005, Public Radio Capital assisted Cincinnati Public Radio in the purchase of WVXU from Xavier University. 

It was in November 2009 that Public Radio Capital became aware of Doug Braden’s desire to sell the 34,000-watt WPFB and 100,000-watt WPAY. The stations had been in the Braden family since they first signed on the air several decades ago.

“The reasons for the purchase were simple,” said Miller. “We are listener-supported, so we wanted to provide a better signal to our long-time listeners and, at the same time, attract enough new listeners and members to become financially self-sufficient over the next several years.”

Ironically, it was the state of the economy in 2009 and 2010 that allowed NKU to acquire the stations. Negotiations began in mid-2010 with a final agreement being signed on January 19 of this year. WNKU began programming the stations February 1 through a management operating agreement while awaiting final approval on the purchase from the Federal Communications Commission.

A condition of the sale was for the previous owner to make repairs to WPAY’s transmitter and antenna thus bringing the signal up to full power. It had been operating at between 30 and 50 percent of peak power prior to inspections conducted on the property last November. Repairs to the antenna were completed earlier this month.

 With the acquisition, WNKU’s brand of alternative and classic rock, indie pop, folk, blues, bluegrass and Americana music combined with local, national and international news is now heard from the northern suburbs of Dayton, Ohio all the way to Charleston, W. Va.

The two signals will continue simulcasting WNKU’s content as they have since February 1, but their corresponding call letters will soon change.  WPFB will become WNKN for its northern proximity to WNKU, and WPAY will become WNKE for its eastern proximity. 

WNKU is licensed in Highland Heights, Ky., and is owned and operated by Northern Kentucky University. The station broadcasts an Adult Album Alternative format on 89.7 FM in Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati, 104.1 FM in Portsmouth, Ohio, and 105.9 FM in Middletown, Ohio.  WNKU has been voted “Best Radio Station” in Cincinnati by the readers of CityBeat Magazine seven times – more than any other station since the annual poll began.

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