Local radio stations to move, change formats

By Sean Thomas

After seven unsuccessful attempts to land a new broadcast facility for WNIU and its Northern Public Radio affiliates, station officials can finally channel feelings of frustration into productive mobilization.

WNIU station manager Mike Lazar said his station, which currently houses both WNIU and Northern Illinois Radio Information Service (NIRIS), will join WNIJ and WKDI in the move as early as Jan. 1. The move culminates a 14-year joint lobbying effort between Lazar and Tom Montiegel, vice president of development and university relations.

“There just isn’t enough room. Right now we’re working under such crazy conditions,” Lazar said. “People have to come in late because we don’t have enough space, and we’re working on top of each other.”

NIRIS, which serves the community as a radio reading channel for the blind, also will move to the new location at 801 N. First St. in DeKalb. NIRIS gives daily news accounts and up-to-date features for blind individuals who are unable to utilize print media.

The station’s construction, which began last February, could not have been achieved without approval from the Board of Regents, NIU’s governing body. Lazar said seven different attempts to procure a new facility were met with administrative roadblocks.

“I thought of leaving,” said Lazar, in reference to being stifled.

The move also will allow for some changes in the stations structural format. WNIU, which currently broadcasts news, classical music and jazz, will concentrate solely on classical music after the move. Jazz and news programming will become the responsibility of WNIJ, and WKDI will feature a conglomeration of progressive and new age music. NIRIS will continue to provide programming for the blind.

WNIU will provide one-third of its operating budget, with the remaining two-thirds coming in the form of state grants, corporate support and listener subscriptions.