WRVA (AM)

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WRVA
WRVA-AM 2014.png
City of license Richmond, Virginia
Broadcast area Central Virginia
Branding "NewsRadio 1140 WRVA"
Frequency 1140 kHz
Translator(s) 98.5 W253BI (Glen Allen)
Repeaters 98.1-2 WTVR-HD2
First air date 1925
Format News/Talk/Sports
Power 50,000 Watts day and night
Class A
Facility ID 11914
Transmitter coordinates 37°24′13.0″N 77°18′59.0″W / 37.403611°N 77.316389°W / 37.403611; -77.316389
Callsign meaning W Richmond VirginiA
Affiliations Fox News Radio
Owner iHeartMedia, Inc.
(CC Licenses, LLC)
Sister stations WBTJ, WRNL, WRVQ, WRXL, WTVR-FM
Webcast WRVA Webstream
Website WRVA Online

WRVA is a News/Talk/Sports formatted broadcast radio station licensed to Richmond, Virginia, serving Central Virginia. WRVA is owned and operated by iHeartMedia, Inc..[1]

Established in 1925, and one of Virginia's older and more powerful AM radio stations, from its base of operations near the Virginia State Capitol, for much of its history, WRVA billed itself as the "Voice of Virginia."

History[edit]

Although three-letter call signs were still available when the station was started, "WRVA" was chosen since RVA was short for Richmond, VA. WRVA AM 1140 kHz was launched at 9:00 p.m. on November 2, 1925. Known initially as "Edgeworth Radio", it was owned by Larus and Brother, a tobacco company known as the House of Edgeworth. The radio station was originally operated as a public service 2 nights per week.

Facilities: studios, transmitters and towers[edit]

The early WRVA facilities were a small studio in a corner of a warehouse on Richmond's Tobacco Row and a tower mounted on the roof of the building. It soon became a vital and profitable business enterprise.

By 1930, WRVA was on-the-air 7 days a week, 24 hours daily, with broadcasting power increased to 50,000 watts.

In 1935, WRVA built a new 5,000-watt transmitter in Mechanicsville, a small community located northeast of Richmond in Hanover County. The new tower for the antenna at this location was the first all-wood self-supporting radio tower in North America.[2] Field tests conducted later indicated that the new tower produced "a 400% increase in dependable night-time service area and a three-fold increase in the daytime area."[3]

However, it was only a short time before a much larger facility was to be placed on-line. WRVA's 1939-era transmitter building in Varina east of Richmond is listed as a National Historic Site. It is a two-story colonial style brick building which was a kit-building. It originally contained a 1929 Western Electric transmitter, which was a "walk-through" model. The broadcast signal was transmitted from two large steel twin towers.

In the late 1940s, WRVA's facilities extended beyond Richmond; an ad in a 1947 issue of the trade magazine Broadcasting proclaimed "Studios in Richmond and Norfolk, Virginia."[4] The same ad noted that WRVA was "Virginia's only 50,000 watt radio station."[4] An FM presence was established in Norfolk June 6, 1948, when WRVC began broadcasting there on 102.5 MHz, "airing shows of CBS, duplicating parts of the WRVA schedule and originating some of its own programs."[5]

In 1961, the "western" transmitter, as it came to be affectionately known by the WRVA staff, was replaced with a RCA BTA-50H Ampliphase after serving for more than 30 years but was kept as a back-up transmitter. It was powered-up and used at least once a week to keep it in operational condition for another 20 years.

In the early 1980s, the Western Electric transmitter was removed and replaced with a 50,000W Continental. The Ampliphase was then made the back-up. In the 1990s, the Ampliphase was then replaced by a newer Harris Electric transmitter and the Continental was made as the back-up. During the 1970s, WRVQ (WRVA's FM) installed its transmitters in the building.

The Voice of Virginia: a "clear channel" station[edit]

WRVA was especially well known for its 24 hour broadcasts on a clear channel frequency with 50,000 watts of signal strength, intended to reach rural areas. At night (when the AM signals travel further), WRVA had regular listeners in Chicago, and was known to reach audiences as far away as the west coast and Canada.

Notable characters and staff[edit]

From 1946–1957, the station carried The Old Dominion Barn Dance, a popular live country music program.

Two of WRVA's more popular personalities were fictional characters. In the 1950s and 1960s, when the studio was located across Capitol Square from the Virginia State Capitol in the Hotel Richmond, WRVA's Capitol Squirrel imparted wisdom and tossed an occasional snowball at lawmakers and local government using a voice created by speeding up the recording in manner later made famous by David Seville and his "Alvin and the Chipmunks" characters. In the 1970s, the Millard the Mallard character carried on dialogue with announcers during the morning rush hour traffic periods.

One of WRVA's better known real-life personalities was announcer Alden Aaroe. His Christmas "WRVA Salvation Army Shoe Fund" provided thousands of shoes annually for needy children, and although Aaroe died of cancer in 1993, the program he headed has continued. In 2004, it celebrated its 36th year, having raised over $5.6 million in its history. Virginia Commonwealth University and Aaroe's family honor the memory of Alden Aaroe with a scholarship in his name for broadcast journalism students.

Because of AM radio signal reach, nighttime hosts enjoyed a listenership at considerable distances such as the former head of the Virginia Chapter of the NAACP, host Jack Gravely, whose evening show was heard hundreds of miles away well into neighboring states overnight. An overnight country music program headed by "Big John" Trimble targeted truckers in the 1970s, again taking advantage of the large nighttime coverage area of the clear channel station. Broadcasting from a remote studio located at Jarrell's Truck Stop in Doswell, Virginia, the show ran for eighteen years; it made Big John into a national radio personality.[6]

1974: traffic helicopter crash[edit]

In 1974, the WRVA traffic helicopter lost a tail rotor at a low altitude and crashed into a house on West 31st street in South Richmond, killing WRVA reporter Howard Bloom, the pilot, and a small child eating dinner with his family.

Basis for Virginia News Network, Metro Traffic[edit]

The Virginia News Network (VNN) was founded in 1977 when Charlottesville Broadcasting Corporation began distributing newscasts to a handful of affiliates via telephone line from its flagship station, WINA (AM) in Charlottesville.[7] VNN headquarters were relocated to WRVA's signature headquarters building in Richmond about 6 years later.[8]

In the early 1990s, WRVA turned over its traffic reporting functions to Metro Traffic but in 2002 began doing its own reports again when the Clear Channel Richmond formed its "Total Traffic" division with local personality Scott Stevens in charge. Not only did Total Traffic do reports for WRVA, it also does reports for the other stations in the Clear Channel Richmond Group, and just recently started feeding traffic reports to other cities outside Richmond as well. Stevens died of a heart attack in September, 2003.

FM, television, ownership changes[edit]

The owners later added WRVA-FM at 94.5 MHz and WRVA-TV, broadcasting on television channel 12 beginning in 1956. After simulcasting with WRVA during the early years of FM radio, in the 1970s, WRVA-FM became WRVQ, and was one of Richmond's first FM stations to switch to a top-40 rock music format.

In 1968, the television station was sold to Jefferson Pilot Broadcasting, owner of WBT, WBT-FM, and WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina, and its call sign was changed to WWBT (Raycom Media has since purchased the television station[9]).

The radio stations went through several owners after Larus and Brother, including Southern Broadcasting, Harte-Hanks, Edens Broadcasting and Force II Communications, LP, before they were purchased by Clear Channel in 1992.

In November 2004, a station using the call sign WRVA-FM began serving the Raleigh-Durham market of North Carolina at 100.7 MHz. It was able to have those call letters without complaint because that station is also owned by Clear Channel. This station became WRDU in 2013.

2006 restructuring[edit]

On November 8, 2006, it was mentioned in a Style Weekly article[10] that WRVA had laid off several staff members and was in the process of completely restructuring its Newsroom environment. However, the newsroom has since returned to its pre-November size.

WRVA at Library of Virginia[edit]

WRVA is the subject of a major exhibit at the Library of Virginia in Richmond. Featured are historical documents, sound files, print artifacts, and such local interest items as the shoes of the late announcer Alden Aaroe, who founded an annual program that has raised over $5.6 million to provide shoes for needy children over a 36-year period.

Programming[edit]

WRVA currently has two locally originated programs in its weekday lineup, both of which occur in the drive times: WRVA had signed Leland Conway for (afternoon drive) after Doc Thompson's unexpected departure from this slot in February 2012, and Richmond's weekday morning news with Jimmy Barrett (morning drive). The remainder of the weekday schedule consists of the standard Clear Channel slate of syndicated talkers: The Glenn Beck Program, The Rush Limbaugh Show, The Sean Hannity Show, Andy Dean, and Coast to Coast AM.

Jeff Katz, former host at WRKO and WXKS in Boston, took the place of Leland Conway on December 2, 2013, as Conway returned to WHAS in Louisville, Kentucky.

Some weeknights the lineup also includes Ground Zero with Clyde Lewis with The Bill Cunningham Show filling out the Sunday into Monday overnight.

Weekend programming includes the locally originated programs The Lee Brother's Saturday Show and Home Improvement with Richard McKann, The technology shows The Kim Komando Show and The Tech Guy with Leo Laporte, the religious shows God is Just a Prayer Away, The International Gospel Hour, and The Lutheran Hour, and an assortment of other shows and Paid Programming.[11]

FM Translator[edit]

On May 5, 2014 WRVA began simulcasting on FM translator W253BI 98.5 Glen Allen, Virginia (via WTVR-FM's HD2 subchannel).[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "WRVA Facility Record". Federal Communications Commission, audio division. 
  2. ^ "WRVA's New Wood Antenna". Broadcasting. June 15, 1935. Retrieved 24 October 2014. 
  3. ^ "Stronger WRVA Signal Credited to Wood Tower". Broadcasting. October 15, 1935. Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "WRVA ad". Broadcasting. September 1, 1947. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  5. ^ "WRVC (FM) Norfolk Begins Programming". Broadcasting. June 14, 1948. Retrieved 19 December 2014. 
  6. ^ http://www.bigjohntrimble.com/banner_links/trimble.html
  7. ^ http://www.virginianewsnetwork.com/contact.html
  8. ^ http://www.hibblenradio.com/WRVA.html
  9. ^ Raycom Grabs Lincoln Financial Stations by Michael Malone, Broadcasting & Cable, November 12, 2007
  10. ^ WRVA News Pares to Hub, “Rewriting” by Jason Roop, Style Weekly, November 8, 2006
  11. ^ http://www.1140wrva.com/onair/
  12. ^ WRVA Adds FM Signal

External links[edit]