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City of license Collegedale, Tennessee
Frequency 90.5 (MHz)
First air date 1961
Format Classical music/Public
ERP 100,000 watts
HAAT 314 meters (1,030 ft)
Class C Non-Commercial
Facility ID 61269
Transmitter coordinates 35°15′20″N 85°13′34″W / 35.25556°N 85.22611°W / 35.25556; -85.22611
Affiliations National Public Radio (secondary); Public Radio International; American Public Media
Owner Southern Adventist University
Webcast Listen Live
Listen Live player

WSMC-FM (90.5 FM), is the Chattanooga, Tennessee, area's only radio station featuring classical music programming. It is licensed to Southern Adventist University (SAU), a four-year institution located in nearby Collegedale. Its signal reaches parts of the states of Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina. Its programming can be heard on low-powered repeater W217AW-FM 91.3 in Dalton, Georgia.

Founded in 1961, the station programs classical music (including opera and similar genres) during most of the broadcast day Sundays through Fridays. WSMC has only three full-time employees: the general manager, corporate sales manager, and operations manager. The announcers and production staff consist entirely of SAU students. Originally airing on 88.1 FM, it moved to 90.7 in 1967 and to 90.3 in 1990. For years, its signal was spotty at best in downtown Chattanooga. However, in 1990, it moved from its original tower on White Oak Mountain to a new tower on Mowbray Mountain in Soddy-Daisy, allowing it better coverage of Chattanooga.

The call sign, WSMC, came from an earlier name of Southern Adventist University, Southern Missionary College.

Religious programming controversies[edit]

WSMC had been one of the charter members of NPR in 1971. However, because of the religious doctrine of the licensee's church body, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, SAU prohibits WSMC from airing live news programming from sunset on Friday evening until sunset on Saturday evening. In the 1990s, this caused conflict with NPR, which objected to its signature newscast, All Things Considered, being interrupted in progress.[1]

Coinciding with this dispute, several interest groups took exception to WSMC's continued affiliation with NPR, which is in turn funded largely by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, itself subsidized by Federal appropriations. The gist of their arguments was that WSMC aired more religious programming than could be considered a public service. Therefore, the groups complained, it was inappropriate for WSMC to receive federal funding (or programming provided therefrom) due to concerns about separation of church and state. Some individuals also alleged that the religious programming, mandated by the administration of what was then Southern College of Seventh-Day Adventists, amounted to a disregard of the larger public in the Tennessee Valley, in favor of catering to a religious minority.[2]

By June 1995, these complaints led NPR officials to inform WSMC that it would begin membership termination proceedings on the grounds that the station preempted NPR programming too often and aired too much religious programming. In response, college officials and station management decided to take action themselves, discontinuing most NPR programming, news included, taking effect on September 30, 1995. Replacing ATC were Public Radio International's The World and American Public Media's Marketplace, which could air on a delayed basis (or even be preempted), instead of live, as ATC does. A few NPR programs remained on the schedule (purchased separately without a network discount); most of the other programs moved to WUTC, which replaced WSMC as the Chattanooga market's flagship NPR station.[1] WSMC has since dropped most NPR programming from its schedule, though it does still air NPR news updates.


Besides airing classical music and some religious programs on Saturdays, WSMC also airs "Cowboy Jubilee," a nostalgic program of Western music. Its format is decidedly less diverse than a typical public radio station, targeting an older, more conservative listenership than public radio normally attracts.


  1. ^ a b Bhatti, Jabeen. Religious program dispute drives Chattanooga station out of NPR. Current, 1995-07-31.
  2. ^ Bhatti, Jabeen. After sundown Friday in Chattanooga, is WSMC still a public radio station? Current, 1995-04-03.

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