WCHL and Chapelboro Logo as of 2016
|City||Chapel Hill, North Carolina|
|Broadcast area||Chapel Hill/Carrboro|
|Branding||WCHL and Chapelboro.com|
|Slogan||Your News, Talk and Tar Heels Station|
|Repeater(s)||W250BP 97.9 FM Chapel Hill|
|First air date||January 25, 1953|
|Audience share||0.4 (Sp'08 P2, R&R)|
|Power||5,000 watts day
1,000 watts night
|Callsign meaning||Where Chapel Hill Listens|
|Affiliations||Westwood One, CBS Radio Network|
|Owner||Chapel Hill Media Group, LLC|
WCHL is a radio station based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina broadcasting at 1360 AM and 97.9 FM. It is the flagship station of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill radio sports broadcasts and an affiliate of the CBS Radio Network. Much of its programming is geared towards the Chapel Hill/Carrboro community, with a focus on local news and community affairs programming.
Chapel Hill's oldest continuous broadcaster signed on January 25, 1953 under the ownership of Sandy McClamroch, who went on to become the town's longest-serving mayor. Originally a 1,000 watt station, the station boosted its daytime power to 5,000 watts in 1978. WCHL served as the launching point for the Village Broadcasting Companies, which bought Burlington's WBAG-FM in 1983, moving it to Raleigh as WZZU (now WNCB "B93.9").
Over the years, the station developed a loyal following for being highly community-oriented. The WCHL news department brought home many Associated Press awards. WCHL played top 40 music, and later adult contemporary before going news/talk in the early 1990s. In 1997, The Village Companies (now Vilcom) sold WCHL to the Raleigh-based Curtis Media Group for $400,000. Curtis moved WCHL's studios to the WDNC studios at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and dumped the highly acclaimed local news and community-driven talk for an automated middle-of-the-road/oldies format, limited news and a simulcast morning show with co-located WDNC. However, in 2002, Vilcom regained control of its former property's sales and programming under a local marketing agreement. Vilcom moved the station back to Chapel Hill and returned the station's format to local news and talk on November 25, 2002, just two months before the station celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2003. In June 2004, Vilcom bought the station back from Curtis Media Group for $775,000.
Vilcom's longtime owner, Jim Heavner, sold a minority stake in WCHL to Barry Leffler, former president of WNCN in Raleigh, in late 2009. By this time WCHL had become a progressive talk-formatted station. Leffler became the station's CEO and managing partner. Heavner remained as chairman. Under Leffler, WCHL added more local news, an FM signal, and the Chapelboro web site.
On January 21, 2010, WCHL's affiliated network Air America filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and ceased live programming the same night. Reruns of Air America's programming continued to air until Monday, January 25 at 9PM Eastern Time.
In August 2015, WCHL was purchased by Leslie Rudd who brought in several local investors, Chris Ehrenfeld, Jim Kitchen and Mark Vitali to form Chapel Hill Media Group, LLC.
WCHL is best known as the flagship station of North Carolina Tar Heels football and basketball. Vilcom was the rights holder for Tar Heel sports until selling them to Learfield Communications in the early 21st century, and Heavner was Woody Durham's color commentator on Tar Heel broadcasts for 18 years.
Ron Stutts, the station's morning drive-time host since 1977, hosts an hour-long pregame show before the Tar Heel Sports Network begins its coverage.
WCHL also airs high school sports.
WCHL's 5,000-watt non-directional daytime signal cuts back to 1,000 watts directional toward the southeast at sunset. Even with all the changes in recent years, the station has continuously broadcast from its two-tower array on Franklin Street, noticeable for being emblazoned with metal call letters on one and frequency on the other.
In 2012, WCHL expanded to the FM band by acquiring a translator station from Liberty University in Virginia. The station, previously licensed to Creedmoor, North Carolina at 98.5 FM, moved to Chapel Hill and to 97.9 FM under the callsign W250BP. The new signal is intended to improve nighttime coverage of the station. Starting in the fall of 2012, WCHL rebranded itself as 97.9 WCHL, while retaining its AM 1360 signal.
- "Raleigh-Durham Market Ratings". Radio & Records.
- Wolf, Alan (October 3, 2009). "NBC-17's Leffler to run WCHL". News & Observer. Retrieved 2009-10-03.
- Grubb, Tammy (January 7, 2014). "WCHL radio owner Barry Leffler leaving Chapel Hill for Texas". News & Observer.
- "WCHL expanding to FM band". News & Observer. September 22, 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-22.
- "Chapel Hill, NC's WCHL-AM (1360) buys an FM translator for $100,000". RadioInfo.com. September 22, 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-22.
- Jones Hoyle, Amanda (September 23, 2011). "Chapel Hill to get new FM station". Triangle Business Journal. Retrieved 2011-09-24.