The anticipated $2.5 million sale of radio station WDYN by Tennessee Temple University to Charlotte, N.C.-based Bible Broadcasting Network will allow the school to increase its reach, according to president Danny Lovett.
While BBN won't carry local programming, he said, it already carries many of the same syndicated preaching programs WDYN does now.
In addition, Lovett said, WDYN will continue to exist as an Internet radio station and broadcast some of the same local programs it presently does.
"We're not getting out of the radio business but into Internet delivery systems with radio and educational programming," he said. "We're making a 21st-century, great business deal so we can be more effective in reaching more people via the Internet."
Lovett said 78 percent of households nationwide have computers. That figure is expected to increase to 92 percent in the next five years, he said.
"Internet radio will reach the masses more than we're doing now," he said.
WDYN used 24-hour satellite programming from BBN in the late 1980s, according to general manager Tom Sneed, but dropped the affiliation in the early 1990s at the request of new university president Buddy Nichols, who wanted more of a local presence on the station.
"One of the first things I looked at was the radio station," said Nichols, now lay ministry director at Tyner United Methodist Church. "Most people in Chattanooga had turned it off because it wasn't the programming they wanted to hear."
He said the idea for the station took shape in his mind and that of his dorm room mate at then-Tennessee Temple College in 1964. It became the student body project in 1967, he said, and went on the air as a 10-watt station in 1968.
"We covered the campus and Highland Park (neighborhood)," he said. "We thought we were on top of the world."
BBN, according to Sneed, will not retain any employees, studio or offices in Chattanooga.
He said the purchase will include the station's property on Singal Mountain, where its transmitter is located. He said BBN will put up a satellite dish at the site, and the network's signal will be picked up for broadcast over the local frequency.
"They're buying the [89.7] frequency," Sneed said. "That's what we've been told."
The purchase is expected to take effect in early November after it is approved by the Federal Communications Commission.
Lovett said the Tennessee Temple University board put the radio station, which he acknowledged had been self-supporting, up for sale in November 2009.
He said the radio station had several bidders, but the university board felt it was mandatory WDYN should be sold to someone whose programming was complimentary.
"We were not trying to sell to the highest bidder," he said. "One of the things we were very conscious of when we had people looking at the station was that we would get compatible people who would deliver the same style of programming. I think we did a great job at that."
Lovett said the money from the sale will be used to help retire the school's debt.
"My purpose as president is to get this university debt free as soon as we can," he said, "and do what we do best - to take the gospel to the world with both Internet radio and Internet education."
Nichols said he was sad and disappointed the station was being sold but glad to hear about its future on the Internet.
"Internet radio is coming on, more than we ever thought it would," he said. "Those things are the future."
Longtime listener James G. Graham of Hixson said listening to Internet radio is far more inconvenient than conventional radio and "can't replace what we've got now."
"It won't be like it was," he said, dismissing claims that programming would change very little. "I don't trust [Lovett].
"As far as I'm concerned, [WDYN] has done more as far as spreading the gospel than Tennessee Temple [University] in the last few years. They've been more of a witness in the community."
Lovett said no station employees will lose their jobs in the sale and reiterated that listeners will hear very little difference.
"Anybody with a computer won't miss a thing," he said. "We're hoping as user-friendly as computers are, it's not that complicated" for current listeners.