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History BPR | Blue Ridge Public Radio


1979 – The nonprofit organization Western North Carolina Public Radio, Inc. (WNCPRI) is incorporated, providing public radio services to the far western portion of North Carolina. After an initial period of providing funding for the University of North Carolina at Asheville to help the university operate a noncommercial station, an agreement is reached that transfers the license for WCQS (what is now BPR Classic) to WNCPRI. At this time the station is broadcasting with 110 watts of power from studios on the campus of UNCA. The broadcast signal reaches most of Asheville, but there are significant areas of the city where the station cannot be heard.

1984 – WCQS embarks on a funding drive and applies to the Federal Communications Commission for permission to increase power and to add translators (low-powered repeater stations) to serve additional communities. Programming is revised to provide a predictable service of classical, jazz and traditional music. Professional staff is increased from one to two. Concerts of the Asheville Symphony are recorded and produced for broadcast by a volunteer engineer and producer.

1985 – National Public Radio and American Public Radio programming are added. WCQS begins a limited schedule of call-in news programming.

1986 – The first translator (serving Waynesville and Clyde) is activated. Paid staff is increased to include a professional development director, news and music directors, and an office manager. Volunteers continue to host most broadcasts, but with professional guidance for the first time. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting certifies WCQS as a fully qualified public radio station. WCQS begins live broadcasts of musical events in the community with the Billy Taylor Trio at the Bele Chere street festival.

1987 – WCQS increases power and moves to a new Asheville site serving Buncombe and Henderson counties, along with portions of Transylvania and Madison counties, and implements new translators serving Sylva, Dillsboro, Cullowhee and Webster. The program schedule is increased to 24 hours a day.

1988 – New staff positions are created for a volunteer coordinator, a chief engineer and a news reporter. Locally produced newscasts are added to the schedule. WCQS adds a radio reading service, a specialized news and information service for the visually impaired and nonreaders. Volunteers read newspapers and other periodicals over a subcarrier available 24 hours a day to listeners who have special receivers.

1989 – A high-powered repeater is installed near Franklin to serve most of Macon, Clay, Graham, Swain and Cherokee counties, and a translator is installed to serve Brevard. WCQS receives two awards from the Associated Press for local news stories and a special Cultural Award from Quality Forward, a local civic improvement organization.

1990 – An application is filed to move the Asheville transmitter and increase its power and height. The FCC grants permission to install a translator to serve Hazelwood and the Cherokee reservation. “Byline,” a journalists' roundtable discussion of the week's news in Western North Carolina, is initiated. A live music series is presented from WCQS’ studios.

1991 – BBC World News Service is added to the schedule as a result of the Gulf War. Live broadcasts are originated from “Moonlight over Downtown” and “First Night in Asheville.”

1992 – A Capital Campaign raises $700,000 for transmitter relocation, power increase, studio renovations, production equipment, a news and information fund, and the station's endowment. A new translator is installed to provide service to Hazelwood and the Cherokee reservation area while improving coverage to Waynesville and Sylva. The FCC approves the new Asheville transmitter. WNCPRI purchases land on High Top Mountain for a new tower and transmitter building.

1993 – The new Asheville transmitter is activated in October. The increased power of the new transmitter provides more service to Buncombe, Madison and Henderson counties. “Evening Rounds,” a call-in program about health issues, is added to the WCQS lineup of local public affairs programming.

1994 – Performance Studio renovations are completed. Folk music performances are broadcast from the newly renovated studio.

1995 – “All Things Considered” becomes a two-hour program and moves to a 4 p.m. start time. This prompts a schedule revision that solidifies classical music as the station's dominant music service. WCQS hosts the North Carolina Public Radio Conference, with the highest attendance ever. An emergency power generator is installed at the High Top Mountain site.

1995 – Translator service to Highlands is initiated.

1997 – The station purchases 73 and 75 Broadway, the downtown Asheville buildings that have housed the station since 1985.

1998 – “Morning Edition” moves to a 5 a.m. start time, making it a four-hour broadcast on WCQS.

2000 – WCQS plans the renovation of its building and a Capital Campaign to fund this extensive project.

2003 – "Transmitting to Tomorrow," the $2 million WCQS Capital Campaign, begins. Its objectives are building renovations; the acquisition of a new radio license and the creation of a second radio programming service; the extension of the signal into five additional communities with new translators; a conversion to modern, digital equipment; and the realization of WCQS’ financial independence by paying off the station’s mortgage.

2004 – Garrison Keillor brings his Rhubarb Tour of "A Prairie Home Companion" to Asheville in February; Thomas Wolfe Auditorium sells out! Renovation of the WCQS building begins in August.

2006 – Translator service begins to Bryson City; a digital (HD Radio) transmitter is installed for WCQS.

2007 – "Transmitting to Tomorrow" successfully concludes – raising $2.14 million! Translator service begins to Black Mountain/Montreat.

2008 – WYQS goes on the air in Mars Hill with full-time news and talk programming. WYQS programming becomes the HD-2 service on WCQS. "The Mountain Air Network" becomes the station’s umbrella name for all WNCPRI programming and transmitter/translator networks.

2009 – StoryCorps, the NPR/Library of Congress oral history project, brings its mobile recording studio to Asheville for a six-week stay. Renovation of WCQS offices and studios is completed on the first floor of the station's building. The WFQS transmitter in Franklin converts to HD, allowing a wider distribution of WYQS news/talk programming.

2017 – In February, WCQS hosts NPR’s “Michel Martin: Going There” at the Diana Wortham Theatre. The event is a big success and provides a soft launch for Blue Ridge Public Radio (BPR), the new parent identity and home of WCQS and its sister station, BPR News. On March 6 the official launch of Blue Ridge Public Radio and BPR News begins, while WCQS continues broadcasting its mix of NPR content, classical music and entertainment.

2018 – Little more than one year later, WCQS’ name is changed to BPR Classic, completing a strategic rebranding process. Blue Ridge Public Radio continues to thrive as the home of NPR in Western North Carolina, while a soft launch campaign helps guide longtime listeners, donors and other important audiences toward the understanding that nothing has changed about WCQS other than its name. In early May, the soft launch ends with great success. Blue Ridge Public Radio, and its two stations, BPR News and BPR Classic, are now strategically rebranded for a bright future.