WETS-FM is a public radio station operated as a partnership between East Tennessee State University and the station’s listeners. Operating 24-hours a day at 89.5 MHz/HD1-2-3 in the Tri-Cities Tennessee/Virginia region, the station is the first digital radio service in the region, and heard everywhere on the Internet through the World Wide Web.
The mission of WETS-FM is to provide high-quality news and information programming for, and about, the region we serve roughly a 120-mile radius from the ETSU campus in Johnson City, Tennessee. WETS-FM serves as an informational and cultural outlet for our region, presenting news, music, and information that is unavailable on other broadcast outlets.
In addition to news from National Public Radio and its nationally distributed programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered, WETS features local and regional news through a partnership with the Kingsport Times-News and the Johnson City Press, our region's premier newspapers. Regional interests are also addressed through the WETS Community Forum.
In addition to news and discussion programming, the station carries entertainment and music programming on the weekends, including Americana music, featuring local music from southern Appalachia. The programming on the news and discussion front ranges from the BBC World Service to NPR programs such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Fresh Air, and The Diane Rehm Show to the Pacifica Radio-produced Democracy Now! program. The airing of the left-wing Democracy Now! has proven to be controversial, since the Tri-Cities is a somewhat conservative region. As such, the station lost a number of members who objected to WETS broadcasting the program. However, the show has also attracted a base of local supporters, who have formed a "Democracy Now Tri-Cities" group dedicated to keeping the program on the air. This group has urged WETS not to succumb to ideological pressure to censor liberal opinions that are otherwise seldom heard in the region.
As of February 1, 2010, WETS changed its weekday format to news and information programming. Previously the station had aired classical music in the weekday mornings and evenings and Americana music in the afternoons, with a blues program ("Blue Monday") on Monday afternoons. Most weekend programming is not affected by this change. In the fall of 2011, WETS began broadcasting three HD channels. The first channel is a simulcast of the analog signal, the second is an all-Americana channel and the third is an all-classical channel. WETS was the first station in the Tri-Cities radio market to offer HD broadcasts. All three channels stream live on the Internet.
WETS first signed on the air on February 24, 1974. The station has transmitted from a tower on Holston Mountain since 1981, from studios located in Richard F. Ellis Hall (opened in 1988, dedicated to the station's first director in 1993) on the south side of ETSU's campus; it originally operated from a two-story frame house.
As an annual fund raiser the station presents the Little Chicago Blues Festival at the Down Home each spring.