WTJU-FM, the station I volunteer for, is having their fall fund drive. The goal is to raise $80,000 over the course of the next two weeks. So far, we've raised a little over $10,000, which is a criminally small amount when you consider how many people listen, not just within the Charlottesville area, but worldwide through WTJU.net.
Fundraising for public radio is always tough -- if a listener doesn't give, there's no perceivable consequence. They still get the same signal as the folks who contribute money to keep the station going. But there are consequences, and when they happen, they're usually major.
Sometimes its a change to a more lucrative format, such as WETA's discarding classical music to go all news/talk. In other cases, such as the sale of WVXW to the Christian Voice, its the death of a public radio station and the birth of another religious broadcaster.
For the Charlottesville market, there are three other non-commercial stations: one plays alternative rock and Americana, two run NPR news and classical. WTJU's classical and jazz programming is far more adventuresome than our focus-group programmed colleagues, and our rock and folk department -- unlike our distinguished competition -- isn't concerned about what the charts decree is hot, only what sounds good.
WTJU's getting ready to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Will it be around for another 50? And if so, will it have the same character? A lot depends on the individual listener -- and their decision to whether to pledge or not. Which is as it is for every non-commercial station.