Western Carolina University in August received a construction permit from the Federal Communications Commission to create a new non-commercial radio station on the 95.3 FM frequency. The university was among five entities that filed applications in February 2010 for a new frequency assigned in the town of Dillsboro by the FCC. The new signal will be more than five times as powerful as the present university frequency at 90.5 FM, said Donald Connelly, head of WCU’s Department of Communication. The university has three years to build a new tower approximately five and one half miles southwest of the university on top of Brown Mountain and begin broadcasting.
The 95.3 FM frequency currently is used as a translator by WCQS-FM, Western North Carolina Public Radio Inc., in Asheville, to reach listeners in Haywood and Jackson counties. Translators are secondary radio services that receive a radio station’s main signal and then retransmit the original signal on another frequency to extend the station’s coverage area, Connelly said. Translators are not protected as licensed radio stations are by the FCC, and their frequencies are subject to change when the FCC allocates a new frequency to a nearby community, he said.
When WCU filed the application for the 95.3 frequency in 2010, it stated in its application that should the university be granted the license for the new station, the university would work with WCQS to avoid any disruption of public radio service. Representatives of WCU and WCQS met recently to discuss possible ways to maintain the WCQS coverage area in the Jackson and Haywood county areas, and those discussions are ongoing.
“As Western North Carolina’s public regional comprehensive university, Western Carolina University has a long and mutually beneficial relationship with WCQS, Western North Carolina’s public radio station,” WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher said. “We value WCQS for providing quality local news and programming, and for being the region’s conduit to National Public Radio. We are working with David Feingold, the new WCQS general manager and CEO, on ways to ensure that the station continues to have a place on the radio dial in our region.”
Western Carolina has a long broadcasting tradition dating back to 1948, when WCCA 550 AM signed on from the lower floor of the university’s Joyner Building. The AM station left the air in 1977, and WWCU 90.5 FM signed on as the far western region’s first FM station. A broadcast service of WCU, WWCU has grown since its inception from being a small club to a professional learning laboratory in the Department of Communication. The student-managed facility is on the air 24 hours a day all year long.