image of a radio station exterior
Eventually, WKSU will be the public radio news and information station for Northeast Ohio, and Ideastream’s WCPN will become a classical music station, the source said. Lyndsey Brennan/The Portager

After a deal brokered in secret, WKSU will effectively merge with Ideastream

Kent State Board of Trustees voted to merge WKSU under Ideastream management, parting ways with a radio station that has flown the university’s banner throughout Northeast Ohio for more than 80 years.

Below is a portion of the release sent to The Portager and other media outlets by a Cleveland public relations firm. Until now, moments after the deal was already finalized, Kent State had not released any details about the agreement, which was formulated in secret and only came to light after sources contacted reporters at The Portager and KentWired.

We will provide further updates on this story.

Portion of a joint press release from Kent State and Ideastream:

CLEVELAND, Ohio (September 15, 2021) — Ideastream Public Media and WKSU public radio plan to enter into a public service operating agreement to create one of Northeast Ohio’s largest news organizations, building on decades of award-winning journalism from two of the region’s leaders in news and information. Today, Kent State University’s board of trustees granted the university permission to pursue an agreement for the management and operations of the WKSU stations. The Ideastream Public Media board has also voted to move forward with the proposal for the public service operating agreement, which is expected to go into effect October 1, 2021. On that date, Ideastream Public Media will begin operating WKSU. Kent State University will retain FCC licensing for the WKSU stations.

This partnership will create an expanded and sustainable regional news service that delivers local, national and statewide news, and excels on all broadcast, digital and on-demand platforms. Under the new operating agreement, the population served by Ideastream Public Media’s news and information programming will increase from 2.4 million to 3.6 million and serve 22 counties throughout Northeast Ohio.

In 2022, WKSU will become the sole NPR news and information station in Northeast Ohio and Ideastream Public Media will commit its 104.9 FM signal (currently WCLV) as a repeater station that extends the WKSU coverage. As part of these plans, Ideastream Public Media’s classical service (WCLV) will move to 90.3 FM, making classical music available to a significantly larger listening area.

All members of WKSU’s staff are being offered positions at Ideastream Public Media’s expanded operation. The combined organization will employ approximately 150 employees, including more than 40 staff members in a new unified newsroom.

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Ben Wolford is the editor and publisher of The Portager.

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