Today Centenary College announced that it plans to sell the license for its community/public radio station WNTI-FM in Hackettstown, New Jersey to another, yet to be identified, public radio station. Up until this point WNTI has been an Adult Album Alternative-focused station airing a mix of local, community-produced programming, NPR news, and syndicated shows like Acoustic Cafe, NPR’s World Cafe, and Little Steven’s Underground Garage.
The sale announcement is on the heels of a purported shut-down of WNTI on Monday. NJArts reported that, “The large staff of DJs at WNTI-FM found out today that their services are no longer required. As DJ Mike Watterson wrote on Facebook, ‘WNTI as we know it is no more. Locks have been changed & the studio is dark.'”
Although it seems that WNTI is mostly a community/public radio station, students have utilized some of its facilities as part of radio and television coursework and as interns at WNTI, according to the Centenary College website.
There weren’t too many specifics on the rumored sale until today, when Centenary College released the following statement:
Centenary College’s mission is to provide a quality liberal arts education with a strong career focus. To deliver on this promise, we constantly evaluate Centenary’s operations and assets to ensure we are delivering on our top priority — providing our students with a rewarding educational experience that prepares them for the future.
As part of this ongoing review, we have decided to transfer Centenary’s broadcasting license to another public radio station. We are in the process of finalizing the sales agreement with the new operator, who shares WNTI’s commitment to great music and has the resources to serve the needs of local listeners for many years to come. The proceeds from the sale of the license will be re-invested in Centenary’s academic programs, to benefit current and future students. Centenary will retain its on-campus studio and will continue to operate an internet radio station at WNTI.org, and we will develop new opportunities for students to participate in its operation, along with WNTI’s community volunteers.
WNTI was established over 50 years ago as a college radio station to serve the Centenary campus and to help our students gain first-hand experience in broadcasting. Over time, WNTI evolved from a student-run station into a National Public Radio station serving a regional audience, with a dedicated team of community volunteers and many loyal listeners. Now WNTI is going in a new direction. The change we are undertaking is difficult, but we firmly believe is in the best long-term interests of Centenary College and the greater community served by WNTI.
We cannot disclose the identity of the new station operator until the details of the transaction are finalized. We intend to share more information as soon as we can make it available, which will probably be near the end of October.”
It’s interesting to note that the statement indicates that a new online radio station will be created and that it will provide “new opportunities for students to participate in its operation, along with WNTI’s community volunteers.” My understanding is that the most recent version of WNTI was not student-oriented, so the license sale may actually herald the return of student radio at Centenary, although the fate of the WNTI FM signal is still uncertain.
As we await more details, fans of WNTI have already started to protest the impending sale. A Facebook group called “Protest Centenary’s WNTI Takeover” has been established and as of tonight has more than 540 members.