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City of license Charlotte, North Carolina
Broadcast area Metrolina
Branding 90.7 WFAE
Slogan Your NPR news source
Frequency 90.7 MHz (also on HD Radio)
First air date June 29, 1981 (carrier current mid-1970s-1981)
Format News/Talk
Power 100,000 watts
Class C0
Callsign meaning W Fine Arts Education[1]
Former frequencies 90.9 mHz (1981-1987)
Affiliations NPR
Owner University Radio Foundation
Webcast Listen

WFAE is the flagship National Public Radio station in Charlotte, North Carolina broadcasting at 90.7 MHz on the FM dial.

The station went on the air on June 29, 1981 on 90.9 FM as a service of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, taking over from a student-run carrier current station that had begun operation in the mid-1970s. It operated from the basement of the Cone University Center. In addition to NPR programs, it aired jazz during the day and classical music at night. Later, jazz was moved to night.[2] 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.[3] The show was called "New Age Sunday" at first, but the station dropped that name to distance itself from the new age spiritual movement.[4] In 1987, WFAE began broadcasting 24 hours a day[5] and began airing more jazz, dropping classical music because WDAV played it.[6][7] 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.[7]

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.

WFAE continued to grow through the next decade. It added a satellite station in Hickory, 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".[8]

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.[9]

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.

In recent years, the station has become one of the most technologically advanced NPR stations in the country. In 2004, it converted to digital technology, with a far clearer signal than before. It also became the first station in Charlotte and the first public radio station in North Carolina to convert to HD Radio digital broadcast technology.

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.[10]

In 2012, WFAE added two low-powered translators in the Sandhills—one in Laurinburg and one in Southern Pines.


Broadcast translators of WFAE
Call sign Frequency
City of license FCC info
WFHE 90.3 Hickory, North Carolina FCC
W229BD 93.7 Southern Pines, North Carolina FCC
W291BM 106.1 Laurinburg, North Carolina FCC


  1. ^ Pam Kelley, "Public Radio Stations Facing Crisis with N.C. Budget Cuts," The Charlotte Observer, April 2, 1991.
  2. ^ Kathy Haight, "Jazz Turns Hot As Charlotte Warms to the Sound," The Charlotte Observer, October 10, 1986.
  3. ^ Jeff Borden, "'New Age Sunday' to Debut on WFAE," The Charlotte Observer, February 7, 1986.
  4. ^ David Perlmutt, "'New Age' Jazz Show Drops Misinterpreted Name," The Charlotte Observer, December 27, 1986.
  5. ^ Jeff Borden, "24-Hour Broadcasting Will Begin at WFAE," The Charlotte Observer, March 12, 1987.
  6. ^ Jeff Borden, "WFAE Replaces Daytime Classical Music with Jazz," The Charlotte Observer, November 26, 1987.
  7. ^ a b Jeff Borden, "Station Manager Leaving WFAE," The Charlotte Observer, June 4, 1988.
  8. ^ Mark Washburn, "WFAE Celebrates 20 Years on the Air," The Charlotte Observer, July 1, 2001, p. 1F.
  9. ^ Diane Suchetka, "WFAE Drops All That Jazz for an All-Talk Format," The Charlotte Observer, November 17, 2000, p. 1B.
  10. ^ Mark Washburn, "WFAE Adds Jazz to Its Mix," The Charlotte Observer, July 24, 2008.

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Coordinates: 35°17′13″N 80°41′46″W / 35.287°N 80.696°W / 35.287; -80.696