The station was originally licensed to Georgetown University under the callsign WGTB, and was programmed by Georgetown students with a progressive rock format. (WGTB's slogan was "One Nation Underground".) In 1979, the administration at Georgetown decided that the station did not fit with the public image they desired for the University, and sold the station to the University of the District of Columbia for $1. Under UDC ownership, WGTB became WDCU, with a jazz format. In mid-1997, at the height of a city-wide budgetary crisis, the school sold WDCU to C-SPAN, a non-profit funded by the cable television industry.
C-SPAN had wanted for some time to establish a radio service which would complement its television services. With the purchase of WDCU, the network was finally able to realize this ambition. C-SPAN Radio broadcasts public-affairs programming, including some audio simulcasts of C-SPAN's flagship television programs like Washington Journal and some radio-only programming such as the famous tape-recorded Oval Office conversations from the Johnson and Nixon administrations, oral histories, and some committee meetings and press conferences not shown on television due to programming commitments. A unique part of WCSP's programming is its rebroadcast of the Sunday morning talk shows, without commercials, in rapid succession. In addition to WCSP-FM, C-SPAN Radio programming is also available online and via satellite radio on XM Satellite Radio.