Photo courtesy WTJU
DJ Colin Powell in the studio at WTJU in Charlottesville
Charlottesville-based radio station WTJU is set to make its first sonic footprints on the Richmond airwaves this Sunday.
Owned by the University of Virginia and airing at 91.1 FM in Charlottesville, “The Sound Choice in Central Virginia” will assume the helm of Ashland-based station WHAN, and begin broadcasting across the River City region at 102.9 FM and 1430 AM. The transition is auto-programmed to occur at midnight on Feb. 1, at which point Richmonders tuning in to WHAN will exclusively hear the Charlottesville station. WTJU airs a mix of rock, jazz, folk, classical, Americana, country, soul, blues and world music and more, as well as news programs.
Nathan Moore, WTJU’s general manager, says the frequencies' changing-of-hands is the result of a three-year lease agreement between the two stations. Under the agreement, WTJU is able to rebroadcast from the Ashland station using, as Moore describes it: “airtime being leased.”
While WTJU will continue to air from its location on the U.Va. campus, rebroadcasting in Ashland via webstream, Moore says he doesn't want the expansion to simply be “a Charlottesville station rebroadcasting in Richmond.” To clear the hurdle of not only reaching, but connecting with an audience more than 70 miles away, Moore says, “We're trying to get in touch with Richmond venues, artists and promotions to see how we can best serve the area.”
In terms of anticipated listenership, Moore sees potential in the expansion from Charlottesville to Richmond. “There are plenty of people who commute from both, people who go from one to the other to see a good show. There are also plenty of bands with connections to both places.” (Richmond magazine contributor Don Harrison also commutes to Charlottesville for WTJU's weekly Radio Wowsville show.)
Part of carving out a niche with a wider audience will also include adding broader coverage to programs like “Soundboard,” WTJU's weekday morning discussion segment. While the program currently focuses on community issues and news in and around Charlottesville, “the editorial focus will need to shift,” Moore says, “to work more with content providers from Richmond.”
WTJU is also negotiating the setting aside of airtime for VCU's student-run station WVCW. Though still being solidified, the plans could result in WVCW broadcasting on 102.9 weeknights from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.
While the programming that begins Feb. 1 will be entirely in the hands of WTJU, devoted listeners of WHAN will not be cast aside. According to Moore, the station is in talks with a handful of current WHAN hosts who may continue on with WTJU, and for listeners who want to continue hearing bluegrass and folk music, WTJU begins its Folk Marathon on Monday, Feb. 2., continuing through the following Sunday, Feb. 8.
The leasing agreement with WHAN includes an option for WTJU to purchase the station once the three years are up, which Moore says is part of the plan. As far as any further expansions go, Moore says the station is in the final stages of fitting on a larger antenna to its location in Charlottesville, which will allow WTJU to extend its sound west to the Shenandoah Valley. “Other than that,” says Moore, “with this move we'll have our hands full for a while.”