In the 1940s Capitol Broadcasting Company began looking for ways to grow its business. WRAL-AM, the company’s only radio station, had been on the air since 1938, but at only 250 watts — the station’s signal barely reached beyond the Raleigh city limits. Despite lots of creative marketing and popular local programming, the AM station’s audience was hard to expand with such a limited signal.
So in true CBC fashion, the company began looking at a promising new form of radio called FM, or “frequency modulation.” Few listeners had FM sets at the time because there were very few FM stations on the air. But FM radio offered a signal that was technically superior to that of AM, and technical superiority was always of interest to CBC.
Never afraid of the unknown, Capitol Broadcasting set its sights on an FM station of its own. On September 6, 1946, the FCC granted CBC a license to operate WCOY-FM – only the second FM station licensed in North Carolina.
CBC quickly changed the station’s call letters to WRAL-FM and increased the power to a staggering 250,000 watts. Then it was time to begin building an audience for the new station.
Led by WRAL General Manager Fred Fletcher, CBC began producing unique programming that would create a separate identity for its new FM station. Rather than simply “simulcasting” shows from WRAL-AM, Capitol created unique programming that could only be found on FM.
WRAL-FM broadcast a mix of easy-listening music, agricultural reports and numerous live sporting events as it built an audience in those early days. Before long it became the flagship station for the Tobacco Radio Network, allowing CBC to put its new FM signal to work as a money saver for all the member stations in Eastern North Carolina. The TN stations were now able to receive network programming directly from WRAL-FM and no longer had to subscribe to expensive phone lines for the feeds. It was one of the earliest innovations in CBC broadcast history.
In the 1970s WRAL-FM adopted the “Adult Contemporary” musical format and eventually branded itself “MIX-101.5.” Morning host Bob Inskeep was one of the station’s most popular and successful personalities. Inskeep joined WRAL-FM in 1974 and won legions of fans during a fifteen-year CBC career.
Inskeep was followed by Bill Jordan, who teamed with a number of co-hosts to carry on the station’s morning show success. Jordan retired in 2013 after 23 years as the best known “voice” of the station.
Through the years WRAL-FM has continued its commitment to technological innovation and excellence. In December 2002 it became one of the country’s first licensed commercial radio stations to broadcast in HD Radio, which allows it to split the radio signal into multiple program streams.
WRAL-FM has also received numerous honors for its community service, news reporting and public affairs programming.
In 1983 WRAL-FM and its corporate partner North Carolina News Network won the coveted George Foster Peabody Award for a series of reports focusing on victims across all walks of life.
In 1996 the station won the prestigious NAB Crystal Award for Excellence in Community Service. The NAB judges lauded WRAL’s fundraising for victims of the Oklahoma City bombings, support of Duke Children’s Hospital and a host of other community projects benefitting needy citizens. Thirteen years later – in 2009 – the NAB once again honored WRAL-FM with the national Crystal Award, citing the station’s numerous efforts in the community.
WRAL-FM’s best known community service project began in 1994 as a fundraising effort for Duke Children’s Hospital. The station’s annual “Radio-Thons” have raised more than $15 million in the years since.