The history of WKNC

The first radio station in eastern North Carolina and second to be licensed in the entire state was WLAC at North Carolina State College. WLAC was founded by students and faculty of the communications department with a studio in Winston Hall. WLAC's first broadcast was on October 16, 1922. Guest speaker for the evening was Josephus Daniels, former secretary of the US Navy and owner of the Raleigh News & Observer. Daniels made the ironic prediction: "Nobody now fears that a Japanese fleet could deal an unexpected blow on our Pacific makes surprises impossible." Financial difficulty forced WLAC off the air one year later.

Twenty one years after WLAC fell silent, a couple of aerospace and electrical engineering students brought radio back to the university with experimental station WOLF in 1944. WOLF was entirely financed by these two students and only reached a few of the student dormitories as a carrier-current station.

In 1945 WOLF's call letters were changed to WNCS and the station was admitted into the Student Publication Authority. The university also began to take an interest in WNCS and helped it by giving financial support and a more permanent location with studios in the 1911 Building.

The next change occurred in 1947 as WNCS became WVWP, "VOICE of the WOLFPACK", and made it's first attempt at out-of-town sports coverage with a broadcast of the State-Davidson football game. In 1948 WVWP carried all home Wolfpack basketball games. In 1952 the FCC shut down WVWP for over radiation of it's signal, but WVWP returned in 1954 to broadcast the first ACC basketball tournament at Reynolds Coliseum.

1958 brought yet another change in call letters, this time to WKNC 580 AM. The following year WKNC became the first college radio station in the southeast to cover two independent campuses when they began broadcasting to Peace College.

Feeling the need to expand their coverage of NCSU and beyond, WKNC made plans to go FM in the mid-1960's. As a carrier-current AM station, WKNC could only be heard in Lee, Sullivan, and Bragaw residence halls (A CARRIER-CURRENT STATION CAN ONLY BE HEARD ON RADIOS PLUGGED INTO A WALL OUTLET IN A BUILDING EQUIPPED WITH A SPECIAL RECEIVER).

In October, 1966 WKNC 88.1 FM was born. With a 10 watt transmitter, WKNC-FM could reach most of Raleigh. But after only a few years as an FM station, the staff discovered that there were still many students who had AM radios in their dorms but no FM. To reach these students, WPAK 600 AM was established along with WKNC-FM to serve those students still without FM radios. WPAK also featured a more mainstream top-40 format as a contrast to WKNC's mix of folk, jazz, and classical music. WPAK was on the air until 1971.

The 1970's saw some major developments for WKNC. In 1972 the station moved into new studios in the University Student Center. The studios, built almost entirely by student volunteers, included some unique design features to better accommodate the air staff. A 30 foot antenna tower was also built on top of D.H. Hill Library. WKNC increased it's power from 10 to 1,000 watts in 1974 and began to tailor it's format towards a progressive rock sound while continuing to feature jazz, top-40, and soul.

Another jump in power came in the early 1980's from 1,000 to 3,000 watts, good for about 40 miles outside of Raleigh. With a growing staff, audience, and power output as well as improvements in format, WKNC became recognized as one of the top college radio stations in the country.

Entering 1991 and to celebrate it's 25th Anniversary as an FM station, WKNC moved into new state of the art studios in the Student Center Annex. On Saturday, March 9th, 1991 WKNC 88.1 FM signed on the air from it's new facilities, opening yet another chapter in the history of radio at North Carolina State University.

Written by Mark Teel,
Staff Historian


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