Today we know WFAE as Charlotte’s National Public Radio (NPR) news source, but it started life as UNC Charlotte's college radio station when it began broadcasting on April 18, 1977.
Initially it was only a 10-watt, carrier current station that aired on 90.9 FM weekdays from 4pm to 11pm under the call letters "WVFN" (W-Voice of the Forty Niners) operated from the basement of the Cone University Center, and was funded by student activity fees. But even in those early days, the student-run station had big dreams for WFAE’s future including to “...some day, become a full-fledged National Public Radio affiliate” (Charlotte Observer, May 17, 1977).
The station eventually grew and signed on for the first time on June 29, 1981 on 90.9 FM as a service of UNC Charlotte. In addition to NPR programs, the new station aired jazz during the day and classical music at night and on Sundays. Later, jazz was moved to night. Before WFAE's sign-on, the only NPR outlet in the area had been WNSC-FM, a South Carolina Educational Radio outlet in Rock Hill.
The station grew rapidly, and within five years moved to much larger studios in the One University Place building near the UNC Charlotte campus, where it still is today.
In February 1986, WFAE began airing new-age music on a Sunday evening show emphasizing contemporary jazz. The show was called "New Age Sunday" at first, but the station dropped that name to distance itself from the new age spiritual movement. In 1987, WFAE began broadcasting 24 hours a day and began airing more jazz, dropping classical music because WDAV played it. Also in 1987, it moved to its current dial location at 90.7 FM. With the move came an increase in its news and information programming. It also devoted more time to contemporary jazz.
WFAE's growth occurred amid financial uncertainty. UNC Charlotte was eventually forced to end support for the station due to a budget crunch. In 1994, UNC Charlotte handed over control to a nonprofit community board, the University Radio Foundation, which still owns the station today.
Until next week!