|Broadcast area||Fort Wayne, Indiana|
|First air date||February 14, 1978|
|Format||Public radio, Classical music|
|HAAT||100 meters (330 ft)|
|Affiliations||National Public Radio|
|Owner||Northeast Indiana Public Radio
(Northeast Indiana Public Radio)
WBNI-FM (94.1 FM) is a Fort Wayne, Indiana-area public radio station owned and operated by Northeast Indiana Public Radio. The station is a member station of National Public Radio. Local programming originates from the Northeast Indiana Public Radio broadcasting facility at 3204 Clairmont Court in Centennial Park.
WBNI began broadcasting in 1978 as WIPU-FM at 89.1 MHz on the campus of Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne (IPFW) with a very limited schedule using university staff and students. The station acquired enough of a following that by 1981, The Friends of WIPU was incorporated as a support organization.
Later that year, budget cuts threatened to force WIPU to shut down. The Friends of WIPU incorporated as Public Broadcasting of Northeast Indiana (now known as Northeast Indiana Public Radio), and bought the station in an effort to save public radio in the area. PBNI officially took control on March 16, 1982; changing the call letters to WBNI.
With new owners came new studios in the historic YWCA facility on North Wells Street. The schedule was gradually expanded and effective radiated power was also increased. Programming was mostly classical music, jazz, and folk music with some news and information programs from National Public Radio, including "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered." The station began airing occasional tapes of local concerts, including the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 1993, Northeast Indiana Public Radio's 600-foot (180 m) transmitter tower was erected in Centennial Park and effective radiated power was raised from 31,000 watts to 50,000 watts, greatly expanding the coverage area in northeast Indiana, southern Michigan, and northwest Ohio. A new broadcasting facility was dedicated in the spring of 1994. Programming remained much the same until early 2002, when a sister station, WBOI, began broadcasting from the same building using WBNI's old tower in Orland. At the same time, a 10-watt translator was set up in Fort Wayne to repeat WBOI's programming at 88.7 FM.
With WBOI's sign-on, it took all NPR news, jazz and folk music programming from WBNI, which became a 24-hour classical music station. By 2003, the two stations swapped frequencies, with WBOI moving to the stronger 89.1 and WBNI moving to 91.3.
In February 2007, Northeast Indiana Public Radio management announced plans to acquire the transmitter of WCKZ, a rock music station operating at 94.1 mHz and licensed to Roanoke. NIPR took over the frequency and power of WCKZ and began field tests in April. General manager Bruce Haines announced that WCKZ began broadcasting classical music on May 1, providing the Fort Wayne metropolitan area with a stronger signal for the classical music programming currently carried on WBNI. The transmitter covers most of Allen County and all or portions of Noble, DeKalb, Whitley, Miami, Wabash, Huntington, Wells, Adams, Grant, Blackford, and Jay counties in Indiana. The station continued to use the Orland transmitter, now known as WCKZ, and the Fort Wayne translator. WBNI is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to "Roanoke-Fort Wayne" on 94.1.
In November 2007, WBNI replaced the directional antenna on the tower in Roanoke with an omnidirectional antenna, resulting in a better signal in the coverage area. There was no change in effective radiated power, which remains at 6,000 watts.
In 2008, Joan Baumgartner Brown was selected as president and general manager of Northeast Indiana Public Radio (NIPR). The veteran local nonprofit leader oversaw operations at both WBNI and WBOI. Brown replaced Bruce Haines beginning August 4. Haines became president and general manager of WFWA (Channel 39), Fort Wayne's Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Public television station.
On January 20, 2009, Brown announced that the NIPR Board of Trustees had decided "to pursue the sale of the analog stations now carrying classical music - WBNI 94.1, WCKZ 91.3, and W204BF 88.7. The signals are available for sale immediately. We expect that a finalized sale may take some time, and until the time of a sale, our plan is to continue broadcasting on these three frequencies as usual." However, Brown also said that the station would continue offering a high definition signal at WBOI's HD-2 program, transmitted from the Centennial Park tower, and the programs will also continue to be heard via live Internet streaming at www.nipr.fm. Brown said the station found that financial support was not sufficient to continue with the three analog signals, especially since "NIPR has been affected by the weak economy."
On April 15, 2010, Northeast Indiana Public Radio (NIPR) announced the sale of WCKZ and the 10-watt Fort Wayne translator to Star Educational Media Network, pending approval from the FCC. WBNI's transmitter tower in Roanoke was also offered for sale, then taken off the market in early 2011. Once the sales of the analog stations was completed, classical music programming continued at 94.1, on WBOI's HD-2 program, and via live streaming on the Internet. The sale of the two transmitters was completed in June 2010; the official station ID now only includes WBNI.
In November 2010, Brown resigned as president and general manager of NIPR. On December 10, 2010, NIPR announced that its new president and general manager would be Will Murphy, who had been the general manager of WFHB in Bloomington, Indiana; he took over at NIPR in January 2011. It was announced on December 4, 2012, that Murphy would be leaving NIPR to run another Indiana public radio station, WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana. David Hunter, the membership manager, became the interim general manager.
On January 29, 2013, NIPR's board announced that Peter Dominowski is the new president and general manager of NIPR. He has four decades of experience in broadcasting, mostly in public radio.
In July 2016, Peter Dominowski announced that Northeast Indiana Public Radio had purchased a two-story building on Jefferson Boulevard in downtown Fort Wayne to serve as the future headquarters for WBNI and WBOI. Fund raising will continue to cover the costs of major renovations. Dominowski said it would probably be two to three years before the building could be occupied.
94.1 FM history
Prior to acquisition by NIPR, WCKZ had been a Modern adult contemporary station as "Star 94.1" with the call signs WGL-FM and WYSR. The WYSR call-letters continued as the station flipped to Rhythmic oldies, first as "Y94", then as "Groovin' Oldies 94.1", in 1998. In 2001, the station acquired the WCKZ call-letters from sister station 102.3 and retooled the format on that frequency to Urban AC as "94.1 The Wiz". Most recently, the station was Classic rock under the moniker "Z94".
By August 2006, Z94's parent company, Summit City Radio, announced a station realignment and sale that would include the return of heritage rock station, Rock 104 WXKE at its previous location on the dial at 103.9. It was also announced that Summit City would be selling 94.1 to Northeast Indiana Public Radio in early 2007. All radio personalities, promotions, and the classic rock format moved to 103.9 FM. During this period, WCKZ simulcast Rock 104 while Northeast Indiana Public Radio raised the money needed to purchase the station. It announced plans to take over WCKZ and begin transmitting WBNI's classical music programming by May 1, 2007.
In April 2007, Northeast Indiana Public Radio acquired the station, placing WBNI's classical music format and call-letters on the 94.1 signal. The WCKZ call-letters moved to 91.3 in Orland and simulcast 94.1's programming until the transmitter was sold in June 2010.
Much of WBNI's programming today utilizes computerized automation of music from the station's library with some recorded announcements by Doug Gruber, who died in 2014. A few programs produced by National Public Radio (NPR) and other public radio outlets are broadcast on WBNI, including "From The Top," "Sing For Joy," "Sunday Baroque," "Harmonia," and "Hearts of Space."
Mondays through Fridays, from 7 to 9 p.m., WBNI broadcasts recorded concerts by major orchestras. WBNI also carries the live Metropolitan Opera broadcasts on Saturdays from December through May, usually beginning at 1 p.m.
There are still a few locally produced live classical programs such as the afternoon "Matinee" program, 12 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, hosted by Stan Whippo. Other locally produced classical programs (all digitally recorded) include "Guitar Showcase," hosted by local guitarist Bob Ferguson, and encore broadcasts of "Best Seat in the House," co-hosted by Dick VerWiebe and Janice Furtner, both broadcast on Saturday. Longtime WBNI program host Rob Nylund is now hosting "Symphonically Yours," a program devoted to symphonic music, on Saturday, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. In January 2017, Nylund began hosting "Classical Mornings" on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
The station now offers classical music 24 hours a day and is available on the World Wide Web at www.nipr.fm. Current programming is listed on the station's website,  wboi.org
Throughout its history WBNI has utilized mostly volunteers to host its local programming. Like other National Public Radio stations, WBNI is supported by contributions from listeners, businesses, and corporations. There are also spring and fall on-air pledge drives, usually lasting a little over a week.
Although WBNI no longer has regular news broadcasts, it does give regular weather forecasts and bulletins from the National Weather Service.
WBNI's longtime general manager, Bruce Haines, was succeeded by Joan Baumgartner Brown in August 2008. Will Murphy took over as general manager in February 2011. Kevin Kreigh was the operations manager and programming director; he resigned in February 2011 and was replaced by Andrew Anderson, who resigned in February 2012. Janice Furtner was the longtime music director (26 years) and host of the weekday "Con Brio" broadcasts, as well as the host of "In the Spotlight", a show of recorded concerts by local music groups, including the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra, Heartland Chamber Chorale, Fort Wayne Children's Choir, et al.; her position was eliminated by management in June 2010. WBNI resumed airing selected Fort Wayne Philharmonic concerts for the 2008-09 season, after a funding hiatus of one year, with the opening concert on September 20, 2008. The board of directors announced at a December 4, 2012, volunteers recognition dinner that Will Murphy was leaving as general manager; a search began for a new general manager. David Hunter, the membership manager, served as the interim general manager. Peter Dominowski became the new president and general manager of NIPR in January 2013.
In January 2009, Brown announced that the 94.1 signal, along with WCKZ (91.3) and the translator W204BF (88.7), was available for immediate sale. Besides financial considerations caused by a weak economy, Brown said the NIPR Board of Directors determined "that even with a stronger signal on 94.1, our analog stations are unable to provide the fidelity needed for the deep complexities of classical music." WBNI's classical music programming would continue, however, via the digital program offered on WBOI (89.1) HD-2 to those with high definition radios and over the Internet, via live streaming, at www.nipr.fm. NIPR received FCC approval of the sale in June 2010 of WCKZ and W204BF to Star Educational Media Network. WCKZ and W204BF now simulcast the contemporary Christian format of Star Educational Media's "Star 88.3" (WLAB Fort Wayne). However, attempts to find a buyer for the 94.1 signal were unsuccessful and in early 2011 the station was taken off the market.
- NIPR brochure
- Interview with Bruce Haines, NIPR general manager
- Eyewitness account by Robert E. Nylund, NIPR program host since July 1992
- Interview with NIPR staff, NIPR flyer
- Doug Gruber, WBOI program director
- NIPR Names New President and General Manager - Newsroom - Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick
- WFWA - Public Broadcasting for Northeast Indiana
- Letter from Joan Baumgartner Brown to NIPR members, January 20, 2009
- http://www.fwbusiness.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8970&Itemid=265; Doug Gruber, WBOI jazz coordinator
- NIPR news release, December 10, 2010
- Interview with NIPR staff, February 2007
- Robert E. Nylund
- Letter from Joan Baumgartner Brown
- http://www.indianaeconomicdigest.net/main.asp?SectionID=31&SubSectionID=155&ArticleID=53800; http://www.nipr.fm/
- Northeast Indiana Public Radio website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WBNI
- Radio-Locator information on WBNI
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WBNI