Northeast Indiana Public Radio (NIPR) is selling 94.1-FM to Taylor University Broadcasting Inc. (TUBI).
Currently, 94.1 FM broadcasts classical music using the WBNI call letters. Classical WBNI will continue to be heard throughout the community on WBNI.org, on the WBNI mobile app, on HD radio, and on smart speakers and mobile devices.
Pending FCC approval, the transfer of ownership will take place later this summer, according to a news release.
“Our Board of Trustees unanimously approved this sale because it allows us to continue to serve the community with 24/7 classical music while obtaining the funds to make essential digital equipment upgrades,” said Peter Dominowski, president and general manager of NIPR. “It is also important that 94.1 be maintained as a radio service provided by another organization with deep roots in the community.”
TUBI Executive Director Ross McCampbell said, “It is reassuring to see two organizations that have a heart for serving the community at their core work together to create mutual situations where both can do exactly that with more efficiency and impact.”
TUBI, which also owns Christian music station WBCL, is acquiring 94.1 for its sister station, Rhythm and Praise. This community-minded transaction will allow a first for the Fort Wayne radio market, an Urban Gospel station that covers the entire city and county 24/7 on an easily accessible FM frequency, according to the news release.
NIPR is the licensee for 89.1 WBOI — NPR News and Diverse Music, WBOI.org, WBOI Studios Podcasts, and Classical WBNI. NIPR is a nonprofit, charitable organization.
According to information on WBOI’s website, the sales price for 94.1 WBNI is $350,000. The money will be used “to pay off part of the debt that was created from the purchase of 94.1, to purchase essential equipment for the operation of WBOI and Classical WBNI, such as a new transmitter and an emergency generator so programming can continue during severe weather and other emergencies, new digital control boards, and a server for our computer system.”
Part of the funds will be used to establish a reserve fund so NIPR is better prepared to weather future emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-21.
The WBOI website explains the reasoning and necessity of the sale: “94.1 WBNI was purchased for $1.8 million in 2002, but sufficient funds were not raised at that time to pay for the cost of acquiring the station. Payments to reduce this nearly $2 million in debt have been made from the funds raised from listener contributions for many years, limiting resources that otherwise would have been used to improve service to the community. Despite receiving support from some loyal listeners, 94.1 WBNI has never raised sufficient funds to pay for both the cost of purchasing the station and its annual operating costs; it has never been self-supporting.
“Taylor University Broadcasting (90.3 WBCL) approached NIPR because they were seeking an FM station to broadcast their “Rhythm and Praise” format to serve the community’s Black population.
“NIPR decided to sell 94.1 WBNI because: 1) The sale will allow NIPR to reduce the remaining debt from the original acquisition of 94.1 WBNI; 2) NIPR can now invest in much-needed digital upgrades to our outdated analog equipment; 3) for the first time in its history, NIPR will establish a reserve fund to maintain financial stability in future emergencies; 4) 94.1 will continue to be operated on a nonprofit basis within our community, rather than by a commercial broadcaster or an out-of-state entity; and 5) the new 94.1 will serve Greater Fort Wayne’s Black community.”
Taylor University Broadcasting (WBCL) likely will become the new owners of 94.1 FM in July, pending FCC approval.
Classical 94.1 WBNI-FM has a total weekly audience of between 4,000-8,000 people, according to recent audience surveys. By comparison, this is 40-60% less than the size of the listening audience five years ago, according to the WBOI website.
Fans of WBNI-FM will still be able to listen to its classical music 24/7 online at WBNI.org, on the WBNI mobile app, on your smart speaker by saying “Play WBNI” and on HD Radio at WBOI-HD-2.
You can continue to listen to WBNI’s classical music in your car on your HD radio. If you do not have HD radio in your car, you can listen using your phone with the WBNI mobile app, or by streaming the music on WBNI.org. Just use your in-car Bluetooth or an auxiliary cord to connect your phone to your car’s audio system.
Everywhere you currently listen to classical music on WBNI, you will be able to continue to do so. The only thing that may be different is the technology you use to listen, according to WBOI.
Classical WBNI will continue to be supported by listener contributions, but there is no cost to listen to classical music on WBNI.org, on the WBNI Mobile app, and on HD Radio at WBOI-2.