WUNC buys Fayetteville radio station

The actual value of the sale is $1.75 million, including underwriting — paid advertisements for public radio — and the establishment of two internships for Fayetteville State University students at WUNC.

The sale agreement was made through WUNC Public Radio LLC, a limited liability company formed by the UNC Board of Trustees in March, and approved through the FSU Board of Trustees.

WFSS was previously owned by Fayetteville State University; WUNC is owned by UNC-CH.

While WFSS was already an established public radio station, the sale will not only preserve the public radio presence in the region, but strengthen it using WUNC resources, said Connie Walker, WUNC president and general manager.

“The one thing we can do is we are essentially carrying all of our current programming on the station,” she said. “What you need to do to best serve the audience is have a very consistent format and style.”

Before the sale, WFSS aired a combination of news, NPR programming, jazz music and a variety of different shows on the weekend, including a gospel program.

Jon Young, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs for Fayetteville State, said FSU planned the sale for around 18 months. After budget cuts across the UNC system and a lack of fundraising impacted WFSS’ affordability, FSU was subsidizing the station $60,000 to $100,000 per year.

“Quite frankly, we could have closed a deal probably close to a year ago with another buyer, but we thought it was very important to keep public radio for this region of the state,” he said. “We’re talking about the legacy of our station.”

The importance of that legacy was not lost on Walker.

“Had (the station) been lost, I have been told by Public Media Company it would have been the single biggest loss to public radio anywhere in the country ever before — it’s a 100,000 watt FM station; that’s really a powerful station,” she said.

WUNC was in the works of developing a military and veterans reporting project, led by UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication lecturer Adam Hochberg, with stations in Los Angeles and Seattle when the acquisition occurred.

While both Walker and Young see the sale as responsible to WFSS’s listeners, there have been mixed reactions toward the acquisition in Fayetteville.

“I think there’s been a number of people who’ve expressed disappointment,” Young said. “Some of them have expressed anger, and at the same time I think most of the feedback that I’m getting is that they understand the financial situation that we’re facing.”

The Fayetteville Observer published an editorial on Friday commending FSU’s sale, saying the sale will provide cultural opportunities to the region without financial detriment.

“I think it’s always a good thing to see more public radio in North Carolina,” said Orange County WUNC listener Caleb Tolin. “It’s kind of sad that Fayetteville’s losing a station they’ve had for a long time, but I’m glad they’ll keep public radio in the area.”

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