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St. Augustine’s WAUG radio station will offer a new home for urban contemporary music

WAUG is owned by Saint Augstine’s University in Raleigh and it is the only African-American-owned radio station in the Raleigh area.
WAUG is owned by Saint Augstine’s University in Raleigh and it is the only African-American-owned radio station in the Raleigh area. News & Observer staff file photo

Saint Augustine’s University is shaking up the Raleigh radio scene.

The school, one of only two historically black colleges and universities in the country to own commercial radio and television stations, is switching its WAUG-AM station from the urban talk format to urban contemporary music — and it’s moving to FM.

WAUG has formed a partnership with Raleigh-based PMC Broadcasting, which owns the 97.9 frequency in the Raleigh area (it will not interfere with WCHL’s 97.9 Chapelboro frequency in the Chapel Hill and Durham area).

The new station, which will be called “Hot 97.9,” will broadcast hip-hop and R&B music over that frequency, geared toward the 18-to-34-year-old demographic. It will also rebroadcast over the WAUG 750 AM frequency, which is owned by Saint Aug.

The school said in a news release that the format change gives listeners another option in a market where urban radio’s WQOK-FM has dominated. WQOK-FM is a close neighbor on the dial at 97.5.

WAUG is the only African-American-owned radio station in the Raleigh area. In March of this year, Shaw University, another Raleigh-based HBCU, announced it was selling its WSHA radio station, with a jazz/blues/reggae/funk/gospel format to Educational Media Foundation, a nonprofit organization that operates radio networks specializing in adult contemporary Christian music, for $3.5 million. That sale was finalized in August.

Eric Curry, the executive director for communications and university relations at Saint Augustine’s, said the school is excited about the partnership with PMC, which is owned by Saint Augustine’s alum Damian Powell, and by Delores Powell Stewart.

Powell was once an on-air personality at his now-rival WQOK, going by the name “DY Nasty.”

The school says Powell, who will also serve as program director at Hot 97.9, is committed to making the station a major player in this market.

“This station is ready to make an impact in the Triangle area’s urban radio scene. Immediately following our soft launch a few weeks ago, we received nothing but love from our new listeners,” Powell said.

The school said that the station will make a commitment to providing community programming, which includes “Empower,” a show focusing on issues affecting the African-American community and surrounding communities, to be hosted by Saint Augustine’s University president Dr. Everett B. Ward.

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