WFAE (90.7 FM) is a non-commercial public radio station in Charlotte, North Carolina. It is the flagship NPR news/talk station in Metrolina. The station's main studio is located at One University Place in the University City neighborhood of northeast Charlotte, and a satellite downtown Charlotte studio is located in Spirit Square on North College Street. WFAE's broadcast tower is located at ().
The station signed on for the first time on June 29, 1981 on 90.9 FM as a service of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, succeeding a student-run carrier current station operated from the basement of the Cone University Center that began operation in the mid-1970s. In addition to NPR programs, the new station aired jazz during the day and classical music at night. 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, featuring such artists as George Winston and Kitaro. 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.
WFAE continued to grow through the next decade. It added a satellite station in Hickory, North Carolina, WFHE, at 90.3 MHz, in 1995. WFAE's signal is spotty at best in some parts of the North Carolina Foothills. WFHE largely simulcasts WFAE, with inserts specific to the Foothills area airing during hourly news breaks. In 1996, it largely dropped music in favor of a news/talk format as part of an agreement with WNSC-FM to provide non-conflicting programming. It was one of the first NPR stations to air NPR's midday news/talk block (The Diane Rehm Show, Fresh Air and Talk of the Nation). However, it had been committed to news long before then.
In 1998, Charlotte Talks began airing, hosted by former longtime WBT host Mike Collins. Charlotte Talks is a popular local show that focuses on local issues and figures and airs live from 9:00 am to 10:00 am Monday through Friday. It soon became "the de facto talk show of record in Charlotte".
In November 2000, WFAE dropped its last jazz program, Jazz Tonight with Barbara Nail, which ran from 8 to midnight weekdays, replacing it with a rerun of Fresh Air, The Todd Mundt Show, and two extra hours of The World Today.
While its weekday lineup consists entirely of news/talk programs provided mostly by NPR, PRI, or the BBC, music provides the basis for some of its weekend programming. On Saturday evenings from 9 pm to midnight, WFAE broadcasts 3 hours of mainstream jazz, while on Sunday evenings from 7 pm to midnight, WFAE carries PRI's Echoes. WFAE also used to air a locally produced Sunday evening program of new-age music called Nightscapes, but replaced that with an expanded broadcast of Echoes.
For many years, WFAE was the originating station for The Thistle & Shamrock, a popular Celtic music show from NPR that originated on WFAE when it was licensed to UNC Charlotte and its host, Fiona Ritchie, was a visiting professor at the university. It began as a local program soon after WFAE signed on, and was picked up nationally in 1983. Even after WFAE dropped most music programming from its schedule, Thistle remained on the schedule until 2013.
On July 28, 2008, WFAE began airing jazz from JazzWorks on one of its HD channels to reach those disappointed by WNSC-FM joining SCETV's all-news network. Locally produced jazz shows were a possibility as well, since the station still has a large music library.
One full-power station is licensed to simulcast the programming of WFAE:
|Call sign||Frequency||City of license||Facility ID||ERP|
|Class||Transmitter coordinates||Call sign assigned|
|WFHE||90.3 FM (HD)||Hickory, North Carolina||69437||4,000||127 m (417 ft)||C3||December 19, 1994|
WFAE programming is broadcast on the following translators:
|City of license||ERP|
|W229BD||93.7||Southern Pines, North Carolina||10||94.2 m (309 ft)||D|
|W291BM||106.1||Laurinburg, North Carolina||80||51.7 m (170 ft)||D|