Listen up! Charlottesville radio dial about to get ‘progressively’ busier

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Jeff Lenert (right) and Rod Howard are the co-founders of WPVC, a low-power FM station that will air progressive talk radio and hip-hop with a dose of social consciousness. Photo: Max March Jeff Lenert (right) and Rod Howard are the co-founders of WPVC, a low-power FM station that will air progressive talk radio and hip-hop with a dose of social consciousness. Photo: Max March

Charlottesville radio offerings are about to get beefed up with the addition of several new low-power FM radio stations that have received preliminary FCC approval and could be on air by summer. This week, five months after they put in their FCC application, the founders of one of those stations are finally spilling the beans on their programming plans: They’ll air progressive talk radio all day and hip-hop at night.

“There are needs in the market that aren’t currently being met,” said Jeff Lenert, a probation officer who co-founded the station, WPVC 94.7FM, with local businessman Rod Howard. Lenert, who has served as the executive director for PACEM, the nonprofit that provides shelter for the homeless, pointed out that while Charlottesville already has a variety of local and nationally syndicated conservative talk radio shows, it doesn’t fill what he sees as a hunger for locally produced progressive radio content.

“This is a progressive city, and it stands to reason that it would support this kind of programming,” he said.

While the station has received the construction permit from the FCC and is in the early stages of fundraising, they’ve already signed on several contributors, including local attorney André Hakes, who Lenert said will offer her expertise on legal issues pertinent to LGBT community.

“Our goal is to get her on the air for an hour-long call-in format show,” he said.

The station is also working on a partnership with the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center to produce programming focused on issues important to the local African-American community.

“Our mission is to provide an opportunity for people who are currently underserved in the media to get their message out,” said Lenert, noting that the station is also considering which nationally syndicated progressive talk shows to air.

Lenert and Howard both hope the evening hip-hop format will attract a young listenership, and those hours will also feature segments addressing issues including domestic violence, education, and substance abuse.

“I want to get younger kids involved to come in, to talk about what happens at their school,” said Howard, owner of several local businesses including H&H Quality Car Care, H&H Security Services, and Accelerated Bail Bond, and co-owner of the Virginia Silverbacks semi-pro football team. Both Lenert and Howard hope members of the substance abuse recovery community will also have an opportunity to get involved with the station.

“The problem with people who are struggling to maintain sobriety is there’s not a whole lot to do with idle time,” said Lenert. “Give people productive, forward thinking and rewarding opportunities, and their chances for successful recovery are dramatically improved.”

Among the successful FCC applicants for other local frequencies are former longtime WNRN station manager Mike Friend, who plans to put a rock station at 92.3 on the FM dial, and Dave Mitchell, the former owner of 107.5FM. While FCC rules require that each station operate independently, Lenert and Friend said there are opportunities for cost saving collaboration.

“These stations have reasonably small coverage areas, so you have to get together and support each other or you’re going to have a problem,” said Friend, who expects the first of the local stations to begin airing this summer and the rest to be sending out signals by the end of the year.

Jeff Lenert and Rod Howard are the co-founders of WPVC, a low-power FM station that will air progressive talk radio and hip-hop with a dose of social consciousness.

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