Tuesday, February 05, 2013

WTJU and Unreality Programming

I've written quite a bit about the community radio station I volunteer for. WTJU 91.1fm is the University of Virginia's radio station, and it's grown from being a small radio club for students to a radio station staffed local citizens and broadcasting to a large portion of the same.

But in many ways, WTJU hasn't quite grown out of its origins. I've worked in commercial radio and worked extensively with public radio stations across the country, so I have a good feel (I think) for what effective radio programming can be. I do love the freedom WTJU provides in letting me program my own show, and I like not having to do live remotes, engineer ballgames, or babysit syndicated programs as I used to back in the day.

But the fund drives are something else! (as I've written about before) Because WTJU is a multiformat station, the tradition's evolved of letting each of the four music departments (folk, jazz, rock, and classical) take over the station for a week to do special programming as a fund-raiser.

So in preparation to asking our audience for money, we first disrupt their routine. So if you're used to listening to jazz from 10-12 weekdays, there will be a week when it will be replaced by folk music, a second week when it will rock music, and a third week when classical will be played during that time. What are the chances you'll stay tuned during those three weeks?

Right. Our music programming has four distinct audiences. So we start our fundraising efforts each drive by alienating three of them.

Now these marathons usually feature some great and imaginative programming within the featured genre. Just look at this week's schedule! (click on image to enlarge). Lots of live, in-studio performances, some really interesting explorations of folk and world music... and then there's Wednesday morning.

Weekday mornings 6-9 WTJU does classical music. The Monday and Tuesday shows are primarily acoustic, and although not classical, should be fairly easy to listen to in the morning hours. Wednesday, though, we'll be doing three hours of yodelling -- and asking for money. 

Our radio club roots are showing. Programming is all about context. It's not just what you present, but when. What will get people to listen long enough to hear our fundraising message and persuade them to positively respond with a pledge? I'm not sure these questions were asked when this grid was assembled. Because when it comes to Wednesday, I'm pretty sure I know the answer.

Ah, well. I'll be there, nonetheless, answering the phone -- should it ring. I'll provide an update later on the results of the drive.

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