WFSS Fayetteville Acquired By WUNC; Drops Jazz Programming
The University of North Carolina’s 91.5 WUNC Chapel Hill/Raleigh will see its programming expand southward into Fayetteville immediately.
WUNC has announced the acquisition of Public News/Talk/Jazz 91.9 WFSS Fayetteville from Fayetteville State University for $1.35 million in cash plus $400,000 in additional underwriting and internships for FSU students. The WFSS license will be transferred to the newly created WUNC Public Radio, LLC.
WFSS will immediately begin operating as a simulcast of WUNC, leading to the end of the Jazz programming that made up the bulk of the WFSS schedule from 9am to 2pm and 6:30pm to 5am weekdays. It joins a WUNC network also heard on 90.9 WRQM Rocky Mount, 91.1 WUNW Welcome/Lexington, 88.9 WUND-FM and 90.9 WURI Manteo, and 90.5 WBUX Buxton/Cape Hatteras.
WUNC Public Radio, LLC will acquire WFSS-FM in a sale and license transfer agreement approved today by the Fayetteville State University Board of Trustees. The deal also requires Federal Communications Commission approval to transfer the license held by the FSU Board of Trustees to WUNC Public Radio, LLC, a new limited liability company.
WUNC Public Radio, LLC will pay $1.35 million from the station’s independently funded revenues to FSU for the rights to broadcast on the 91.9 frequency. The deal also includes future underwriting announcements for FSU and internship opportunities for two students annually who are interested in radio or journalism, making the total value of the purchase $1.75 million.
With FCC approval pending, WUNC will start operating WFSS immediately and air original North Carolina news programs in its news-and-talk format featuring an award-winning news team, the statewide talk show “The State of Things,” and National Public Radio programs including “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered,” “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” and “Fresh Air.” FSU will continue to operate Bronco-iRadio.com, a student-run radio station that airs online programming.
WUNC Public Radio, LLC’s Board of Directors authorized the agreement. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Trustees voted to establish the LLC in March and appointed its board. UNC-Chapel Hill trustees also are asking the FCC to approve transferring WUNC-FM’s license to the new LLC.
“Working with our friends at Fayetteville State provides a great opportunity to preserve and enhance a strong public radio broadcasting service for listeners in the Sandhills region,” said Hannah Gage, chair of the WUNC Public Radio, LLC board.
“This acquisition makes it possible for us to provide high-quality public radio in a cost-effective fashion for Fayetteville and the surrounding communities,” said Connie Walker, WUNC-FM president and general manager.
FSU officials explored selling WFSS because of several years of budget cuts and a need to focus on campus priorities and the university’s core mission, programs and units. Private fundraising efforts that included annual goals to make the station self-supporting also were unsuccessful.
“Collaborating with WUNC Public Radio, LLC allows us to leverage our previous investment in WFSS to benefit the university and the community,” said James Anderson, Fayetteville State chancellor. “WUNC is one of the nation’s most successful public radio stations. Our listeners will have access to excellent news programs that include a major focus on North Carolina, including issues that affect military families and veterans.”
WUNC recently launched a new national reporting initiative focused on military and veterans issues. The project is led by longtime NPR journalist Adam Hochberg and includes reporters in California, Washington state and North Carolina. WUNC’s Jay Price, a former News & Observer reporter, will cover Fort Bragg and the region’s veteran community.
WUNC worked with Public Media Co., a national non-profit public media industry organization that provides help for station transactions. FSU engaged Patrick Communications, a leading media brokerage and investment banking firm.
UNC-Chapel Hill trustees authorized creating WUNC Public Radio, LLC as part of a strategic restructuring initiative to enable the station to more nimbly conduct business and adapt in a rapidly changing media environment.
A National Public Radio member, WUNC 91.5 FM serves nearly 300,000 listeners with news and information 24 hours a day in 48 N.C. counties and streams online at wunc.org. Besides the Triangle metro area, WUNC reaches Rocky Mount and surrounding communities with WRQM 90.9 FM, Welcome with WUNW 91.1 FM, and northeastern North Carolina through WUND 88.9 FM and WURI 90.9 FM (both Manteo), along with WBUX 90.5 FM (Buxton). WUNC relies primarily on listener support and underwriting from the business community; it receives no state appropriations.