Shaw’s beloved WSHA-FM — and its jazz, blues, gospel and reggae — is no more

Bob Robinson works the controls of WSHA at Shaw University in Raleigh.
Bob Robinson works the controls of WSHA at Shaw University in Raleigh. Karl Deblaker

The sale of Shaw University’s WSHA-FM to the nonprofit organization Educational Media Foundation was made official last week, ending 50 years of jazz, blues, gospel and reggae programming from the college station.

With the final FCC approval, the station — 88.9 on the FM dial — became K-Love, playing adult contemporary Christian music.

The sale of the station was announced in March but was subject to FCC approval. There were many critics of the sale and a petition gathered more than 2,000 signatures in an effort to stop the sale or to find a buyer who might continue local programming. Some alumni said the university was selling out its history “for a few pieces of silver.”

FCC filings released in May revealed the sale price to be $3.5 million, a price industry analyst, Bob Heymann, director of Chicago-based Media Services Group, described at the time as “about right” for the current market.

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Interim Shaw President Paulette Dillard told The News & Observer in March that the sale was necessary to fund an investment in the school’s Mass Communications Department, to improve the “career possibilities and educational programs” for students.

WNCU collaboration

From late May until the sale was final last month, WSHA simulcast much of the programming of WNCU, the public radio station at N.C. Central University. WNCU — 90.7 on the FM dial — plays jazz programming and is an affiliate of NPR, PRI and Pacifica Radio.

Bob Robinson at the controls of Shaw's WSHA radio station, playing jazz for listeners on a Saturday afternoon in 1995. Karl Deblaker / News & Observer

Lackisha S. Freeman, the general manager of WNCU, said that apart from WSHA-produced content broadcasting from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday, all of the WSHA programming for the past two months was from WNCU.

With WSHA no longer broadcasting jazz, WNCU is in a good position to pick up those listeners. But Freeman acknowledged that for listeners very far outside Durham, a boost in WNCU’s 50,000-watt signal would be helpful.

“That’s what we’re hoping to do,” Freeman said. “I just cannot say with confirmation that it’s happening.”

In Raleigh, for instance, the WNCU signal on a car radio can fade in and out as one drives around town. But the station is also available to stream online and over its mobile app.

“I would love to see us extend our reach into the Raleigh market,” Freeman said. “Listeners have let us know that there’s a void there and we’d love to put something in place to try to fill that void.”

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