Fifty years ago, a vision by Billy and Ruth Graham became reality.
The Grahams were burdened that in Montreat, N.C., and in the western part of North Carolina, Christian music couldn’t be found on the radio dial. Further, you couldn’t tune in for any Biblical teaching.
“They saw the need for full-time Christian media in their community,” said Jim Kirkland, director of radio for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “And they took the initiative to fill that need.”
Blue Ridge Broadcasting — officially established by the Grahams on May 27, 1962 — recently celebrated 50 years on the air.
It started with WFGW-AM in 1962 and increased to two stations when WMIT (106.9 FM) began the following year. Today, 106.9 The Light has built an audience of more than 398,00 in a seven-state coverage area.
“(Billy Graham) understood vividly how God uses media,” Kirkland said.
But the radio station’s success goes far beyond that. As Kirkland pointed out, the longevity and blessing that’s touched Blue Ridge Broadcasting throughout the year can only be explained in one way.
“Everything that’s been accomplished over these past fifty years is a credit to God,” he said. “We at the station and those who went before us have simply been helping the process of delivering God’s message.
“We’ll only be successful if we stay in tune to the mission that God has called us to. It’s not our work, it’s His.”
Covering the markets of Asheville, Greenville/Spartanburg, S.C., Hickory, N.C., Charlotte and the Tri Cities region of Virginia and Tennessee, WMIT plays contemporary Christian music, as well as the teaching of speakers like Chip Ingram, Greg Laurie and Dr. David Jeremiah.
WMIT is also simulcast on 106.7 The Light (WFGW-FM) in Knoxville, Tenn.
The reach of WMIT is the 12th largest FM station in the country, largely due its antenna which is perched at 6,745 feet above sea level in the shadow of Mount Mitchell, WMIT’s namesake.
“That really is the major factor,” Kirkland said of the expansive coverage area.
But that location was nearly changed. Before the Grahams established Blue Ridge Broadcasting, WMIT had two previous owners. WMIT began in 1941 as a 50,000-watt station , but when owner Gordon Gray closed it in the spring of 1950, it went dark for over a year.
Returning in 1951, the FAA ruled its signal’s reach was too large and gave the second owner a choice — take the antenna down off the mountain or reduce the signal strength to 36,000 watts.
“Gratefully, they chose to stay up on the mountain,” Kirkland said. “Line of sight is so important when it comes to FM stations.”
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