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WEKU's classical music station set to start July 1

Public radio station WEKU-88.9 FM has signed a three-year deal to launch its long-discussed classical music station in Central Kentucky.

Beginning July 1, WKYL-102.1 FM in Lawrenceburg will be home to the genre that defined WEKU before the Richmond-based station's switch last year to news and talk, which irked some longtime listeners.

"It's been a long wait, but we're looking forward to getting on the air and finding out how we can be the voice of the arts in Central Kentucky," said WEKU station manager Roger Duvall. "That's kind of a secondary focus we're going to have.

"It's a music station, but we want to be able to talk about arts of all kinds on that station, as well as 88.9."

WEKU has received more than $45,000 of the $50,000 that Duvall estimates it will need annually to run the classical station. The station is seeking donations from supporters, and Duvall said it plans to solicit corporate support.

"Even though we have that base of support, there are other things that come due," he said.

The new station is likely to do one fund-raising drive a year, and the staff is considering November, he said.

WEKU is leasing the new station from Frankfort-area office developer C. Michael Davenport, who bought the frequency about 1996. The station now airs smooth jazz, and Duvall said fans shouldn't be worried that jazz will disappear from the airwaves.

"Jazz will probably be weekend nights, and the rest will be classical," he said. "We're also talking with folks in the area about specialty jazz programs."

WEKU had hoped to launch the station last year, when it switched its formats to news and talk, a move leaders said the station made to combat declining contributions and audiences. But talks with a different frequency operator fell through.

Since then, WEKU has continued to air classical music in the evening and overnight. It will continue to do so because the reach of the new station is limited.

WEKU reaches a large part of Central, south-central and Eastern Kentucky, but WKYL reaches parts of only 25 counties around Lawrenceburg, and many of those are on the fringe of its signal. In fact, parts of Lexington are considered distant or fringe listening areas, according to WEKU's calculations.

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