Cleveland’s Ideastream will grow radio audience with addition of WKSU to network

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Kent State University’s board of trustees approved Wednesday a public service operating agreement for Ideastream in Cleveland to take over operations of WKSU, the university’s public radio station.

The agreement, which is expected to go into effect Oct. 1, allows the university to retain the FCC licenses of WKSU’s stations. It will increase the audience for Ideastream’s news programming from 2.4 million to 3.6 million, covering 22 counties throughout Northeast Ohio, according to the station. 

WKSU GM Wendy Turner told trustees that nearly 90% of the programming on WKSU and WCPN, Ideastream’s news/talk station, is duplicative. The stations’ coverage areas also overlap significantly.

“It is our duty to wisely and effectively utilize the investments made by our members, supporters and institutions,” she said. 

KSU President Todd Diacon said during the meeting that for the university to support the agreement, it needed to “enhance journalism, enhance reporting, enhance public affairs journalism for us to proceed, and it certainly does that.”

The university also wanted to expand student access to internships and professional opportunities, “and joining with Ideastream will ensure that and expand that access both into radio and into television.”

All WKSU staffers are being offered positions with Ideastream. Diacon added that WKSU employees would be offered 12-month contracts once employed by Ideastream. The employees will also be able to retain a tuition benefit for four years and state retirement benefits. Combined, the organizations will employ approximately 150 employees.

[Update: An Ideastream spokesperson told Current in an email that “all WKSU staff were offered at-will employment at Ideastream Public Media — with no limit on their term (they were previously referred to as 12-month offers). We would like to emphasize that WKSU staff will be treated like all Ideastream Public Media employees and we are looking forward to working with them.”]

KSU’s president will have a voting seat on Ideastream’s board, and members of WKSU’s Community Advisory Council will be invited to join Ideastream’s Community Advisory Board. 

Next year, Ideastream will shuffle formats among its signals to expand the audience for both its news and classical services. On April 1, it will transfer its classical format from WCLV 104.9 FM to WCPN 90.3 FM. The stations’ call letters will also be swapped.

With the change, the 104.9 FM signal will become a repeater of WKSU, which will be the flagship news station. The new arrangement will make classical music “available to a significantly larger listening area,” according to Ideastream’s website.

WKSU and Ideastream received a $100,000 grant from CPB last year to support research and analysis of a possible partnership. 

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