Monday morning listeners expecting to hear the news on Virginia Public Radio’s WVTF got music instead July 10. This is a product of “the big switch,” a format change for the network, in which 89.7 FM will only play tunes in Charlottesville.
RadioIQ, the public radio group’s all-talk station, will now become its sole news service. Those local frequencies are 88.5 FM and 89.3 FM.
The switch leaves some of the state’s listening areas with access only to news because most of the previous WVTF frequencies became RadioIQ, says general manager Glen Gleixner. However, listener reaction has been net positive, he adds.
“By that I mean we’re always going to hear from folks that don’t like change, but usually the people that like something aren’t as vocal about something as they are if they don’t like it,” he says. “The people that are very happy about it are the people losing music and gaining all news.”
Virginia Public Radio has researched listener preference over the past couple years and found that many indicated a stronger preference for news and information than music. “So what we wanted to do was to offer the majority of the folks we reach the news and information, while still holding onto the music genres that we offer,” Gleixner says.
WVTF music will now play classical, jazz, Americana and bluegrass 24/7, but Gleixner says news is the radio group’s “strong suit.” In fact, it surpassed $2 million in listener donations last fiscal year, which ended in June.
“We call it the ‘Trump bump,’” he says. “Our listener support is as strong now as it’s ever been. We have more donors to the station than we’ve ever had before. We don’t really know objectively if the situation in Washington has had that effect on our listener base and support, but intuitively, people think that, because people are coming to NPR stations more and more for honest reporting.”
Sandy Hausman is the sole Virginia Public Radio reporter based in its Charlottesville office and a recent winner of two national Radio, Television and Digital News Association awards. She says the stations and listeners will benefit from the change.
“I think it will simplify listening and reduce confusion about who we are,” says Hausman. “In the past, we had some music and some news on both stations. Now listeners can tune exclusively to RadioIQ if they’re looking for news and information, or turn to WVTF for music.”
The format switch lends itself to new programming on WVTF, including “Studio B” with Luke Church, a two-hour acoustic and bluegrass program on Sundays from 2 to 4pm, and “Roots Down Redux” on Saturdays from 8 to 10pm, which is a two-hour rebroadcast of “Roots Down,” an Americana program also hosted by Luke Church. Christian McBride will host “Jazz Night in America,” a one-hour program on Sundays from 7 to 8pm.
A full schedule for both stations can be found at radioiq.org.
Corrected July 12 at 9:30am with the correct frequencies for music and news.