WHUR-FM, 96.3 FM, is an urban adult contemporary radio station that is licensed to Washington D.C., and serving the Metro D.C. area. It is owned and operated by Howard University, making it one of the few commercial radio stations in the United States to be owned by a college or university, as well as being the only independent, locally-owned station in the Washington, D.C. area. Also, the staff of the station mentors the students of the university's school of communications. The studios are located on campus in its Lower Quad portion, and the transmitter tower is based in the Tenleytown neighborhood. It is also co-owned with its television partner, WHUT-TV, one of D.C.'s PBS affiliates.
WHUR is also the home of the original Quiet Storm program, which longtime D.C. listeners have rated number one in the evening since 1976, and which spawned the namesake music genre that now airs on many radio stations across the United States. Jeff Brown hosts The Original Quiet Storm weeknights beginning at 7:30 p.m. In 2005, it also began broadcasting in IBOC digital radio, using the HD Radio system from iBiquity.
96.3 FM began back in the 1940s as Rockville, Maryland-based WINX, as an FM simulcast of WINX (1600). It had the slogan, "Sounds like Washington", to reflect the station's local ownership; and this slogan would be carried through until present-day format. WINX was originally owned by the Washington Post during the 1940s and early 1950s. The United Broadcasting Corporation bought the station in the 1950s and moved it from Washington to Rockville. During the 1950s, the station played a wide variety of music and was known as the "Rockville Music Library". In the early 1960s, with the popularity of the FM band still fifteen years away, the AM station switched to a top 40 format and took the FM along in the simulcast, which was one of Washington's most popular stations. The Post bought back WINX-FM and returned it to Washington DC, pairing it with their established WTOP-AM and the call was changed to WTOP-FM. For a while, the station broadcast CBS Radio's early seventies "Young Sound" programming.
The Post later donated WTOP-FM to Howard University "to stimulate the intellectual and cultural life of the whole community and to train more people for the communications industry." On December 6, 1971, the station changed its call letters to WHUR-FM. WHUR became a jazz-formatted radio station, which it remained until the 1990s, when it switched to an urban adult contemporary format.
By 1995, WHUR became one of the highest rated radio stations in the market, right behind WPGC-FM. Also that year, WHUR became the Washington radio and flagship affiliate of the syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show (TJMS). However, in 1999, ABC Radio Networks did not renew its contract with WHUR and moved the show to WMMJ, thus ending its four-year relationship with the station. WHUR was forced to produce its own locally-based morning drive show. This initially affected the station's dominance over rival WMMJ. WHUR, in 2002, acquired The Michael Baisden Show and later, in 2005, The Steve Harvey Morning Show. The station regained its top two spots in the market to date, pacing number two in the 12+ demographic and number one in the 25–54 demographic and the number one urban formatted station in D.C. In 2013, The Michael Baisden Show was cancelled due to its distributor, Cumulus Media and Baisden failing to reach an agreement; WHUR has since replaced its P.M. drive with former Baltimore and Atlanta radio personality Frank Ski, former host of the morning show on WVEE in Atlanta (where Ski still resides).
The quiet storm format of mellow, rhythm and blues and soul music, smooth jazz and love songs often played at night on many radio stations started at WHUR. The format originated when then intern Melvin Lindsey played a soothing string of songs during a particularly bad storm in the mid-1970s, even as power was cut to most of the other radio stations in the Washington, DC area. The quiet storm nighttime format has since been replicated in other major cities that have R&B station formats, such as San Francisco-based KBLX (which formerly utilized a 24-hour quiet storm format for three decades).
Bob "Nighthawk" Terry (real name: Bobby Joe Horn), a former WHUR personality, disappeared in August 1977 under mysterious circumstances.
Howard University Radio Network
WHUR serves as the flagship radio outlet of the Howard University Radio Network, primarily on its HD1 digital subchannel. In addition, the radio network utilizes the following:
- WHUR-HD2, branded as "WHUR World", which focuses on World music-focused R&B, soul, jazz and Neo-soul titles. It also serves as D.C.'s affiliate for the Doug Banks show in the afternoons.
- WHUR-HD3, branded as "WHBC 96.3 HD3", a student-run mainstream urban format focused on hit-driven hip hop, soul and R&B titles.
- H.U.R. Voices, catering to urban talk listeners. It is available on SiriusXM 141.
- HBCU RadioNet focuses on student activities on campus. It is part of the HBCU RadioNet, and available on SiriusXM 142.
- Glasshouse Radio is a talk radio format aimed at students.