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Democracy Now! replaces BBC Newshour

Democracy Now!
replaces BBC Newshour at WTJU

On, Monday, November 5, 2007 WTJU-FM began broadcasting Democracy Now!. The show will air weekdays from 4-5:00pm and replaces the BBC Newshour, aired since 1997. WTJU did not promote the change because we were solving technical issues related to sound quality. Those issues have now been solved and this note is to address questions you may have about this change.

A Brief History of "Canned" Programming on WTJU

Throughout WTJU's 50-year history there has been a focus on locally-produced programming which continues to this day. However, since the late 50s WTJU has broadcast various "canned" programs (pre-recorded or broadcast from elsewhere) to supplement our original shows.

WTJU has always had a more independent and alternative take on our programming and that is reflected in our news shows. For a few years in the 1970s WTJU broadcast National Public Radio (NPR) News and in the late 1980s established a satellite receiving dish and began directly accessing Pacifica Radio News. In 1993 we affiliated with the Public Radio Satellite System (PRSS) administered by NPR. Pacifica programming could then be accessed via the PRSS satellite and WTJU aired Pacifica Radio News until 1997.

In 1997 (and for the next few years...) Pacifica went through a period self-reflection that resulted in changes to the organization. At the same time they switched to a different satellite system that would require WTJU to install a new satellite dish receiver. WTJU's then location at Peabody Hall on Central Grounds at U.Va. precluded us from making that changeover thus we investigated several other news broadcast options.

BBC programs are distributed in the U.S. by Public Radio International. In the 1990s the BBC was having difficulties making inroads into the U.S. public radio market particularly at the 4:00-6:00pm "drive-time" period. That timeslot was tightly sewn up by "All Things Considered" so they approached community radio stations and NPR affiliates with a financially reasonable proposal to carry a U.S.-focused program at 4:00pm called "BBC Newshour".

Involvement in this program (and in fact, access to 24-hour a day BBC programming...) did not require moving to a new satellite dish but was more expensive to carry than Pacifica.

Expenses were:

  1. A fee to PRSS to access the satellite programming;
  2. A fee to PRI as "distributor"; and
  3. A fee to BBC to carry their programs.
By 2007 those fees totaled about $23,000 annually.

Since 1993 we have applied for and received a Programming Grant (originally called "Program Acquisition Grant") from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The amount has grown over the years culminating in 2006 at approximately $15,000. During those years we received less than $200 in support of the BBC Newshour during any of our fund drives. WTJU was losing an average of $7-8,000 annually.

There has been listener fondness expressed for BBC programming over the years but the financial support has not been forthcoming and so we would like to give another good program a chance during drive time. In addition many BBC programs are now offered locally by Radio IQ.

Democracy Now!

Democracy Now! a Pacifica-distributed program, is not offered on any other radio station in Central Virginia (though it is offered on Charlottesville Public Access TV). Since 2004 supporters of the program have petitioned WTJU to carry the program primarily through CvilleIndymedia & the Charlottesville Center for Peace & Justice.

WTJU planned to broadcast Democracy Now! in September, 2006 but had a number of technical challenges related to the Public Radio Satellite System's new "Content Depot" method of program distribution. As of Friday, November 9, 2007 the sound quality issues with our Democracy Now! feed are solved.

Content notwithstanding, production is one of the differences you'll notice between the two programs. DN! is produced on a much smaller budget and therefore features fewer "bumpers", "stingers", "intro/outros" and other radio news production techniques. I invite you to listen to the program and make your own decisions.

We WILL continue to air different BBC programs, but between 3-6:00am weekdays. Many of our listeners have requested an early morning news program. That will ensue later this Fall.

Comments concerning BBC Newshour, Democracy Now! or any of WTJU's programming may be addressed to me, Chuck Taylor, at wtju@virginia.edu or by phone 434-924-0885. If you leave a message, please identify yourself and how you can be reached, if necessary.

Thank you for the continued support of our programming.

Chuck Taylor
General Manager/Program Director, WTJU-FM

WTJU is owned and operated by the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia.
The opinions expressed by announcers or guests on WTJU are not necessarily the opinions of WTJU or the University of Virginia.