WKNC-FM/WPAK-AM (1966-1979)

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“I used to think I was talking to no one, but my God, there really is someone out there [listening] besides my mother!”

Assistant News Director Gerald Gibson, as published in the Jan. 19, 1973 Technician

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  • WKNC signed on at 88.1 FM on Oct. 9, 1966. Article from Oct. 8, 1966 Technician.
    WKNC signed on at 88.1 FM on Oct. 9, 1966. Article from Oct. 8, 1966 Technician.

Feeling the need to expand their coverage of NC State and beyond, WKNC began making plans to go to FM. In October 1966 WKNC 88.1 FM was born, marking the end of WKNC-AM. The station broadcast from 7 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Friday and aired a variety of programs, including news and sports, Broadway musicals, concert music, folk, jazz and classical. WKNC had a very robust music library with more than 10,000 records: 6,000 45s, 3,000 LPs, and other records, including 78s and test recordings.22

With a 10-watt transmitter on top of the King Religious Center, WKNC had about a 10-mile broadcast radius to reach most of Raleigh.23 At the time, however, a survey conducted by WKNC staff showed only about half of students owned an FM radio, so plans were made to create a second, carrier current AM signal.24 WPAK 600 AM signed on April 1, 1968, initially only for students in Lee, Sullivan and Bragaw Residence Halls. While it shared some programming with WKNC, it also aired more popular music.25 In 1970, the station moved from a Top 40 format to progressive rock, featuring artists like the Rolling Stones, Iron Butterfly and Steppenwolf.26 WPAK was on the air until 1971.

The 1970s saw some major developments for WKNC. In 1972, the station moved into new studios in the University Student Center, since named the Talley Student Union. The studios, built almost entirely by student volunteers, included some unique design features to better accommodate the air staff. The station employed a computerized automation system to allow it to broadcast 24/7 for the first time. A new 30-foot tower for WKNC was also built on top of D.H. Hill Library, expanding the station’s broadcast radius from five to 10 miles to around 25 miles.27 Thanks in part to a Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) government grant, WKNC increased its power from 10 to 1,000 watts in 1976 and began broadcasting a stereo signal. The station now had a coverage area of approximately 30-40 miles.28 In 1977, the station adopted a primarily progressive rock format, with some additional programming of classical, jazz, soul, oldies and public affairs.29

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22. Snow, Rick. (1966, Nov. 18). “‘KNC: Slow start is now an FM station.” Technician.
23. “Educational FM to offer new sound to Raleigh.” (1966, March 5). Technician.
24. “WKNC polls students about AM; Most feel station should go.” (1968, Jan. 8). Technician.
25. “WKNC plays pop on WPAK.” (1968, April 3). Technician.
26. Conrad, Gary. (1970, Feb. 27). “WPAK programs going to ‘heavy.'” Technician.
27. Sneeden, Sara. (1972, Oct. 18). “Station witnesses growth.” Technician.
28. “Station starts broadcast.” (1977, Sept. 3). Technician.
29. Rogers, Greg. (1977, Aug. 31). “WKNC to return to air today.” Technician.