WBEZ91.5 logo 2010.png
City of license Chicago, Illinois
Branding WBEZ 91.5
Frequency 91.5 MHz
Translator(s) 91.3 W217BM Elgin, Illinois
Repeaters 90.7 WBEQ Morris, Illinois
First air date 1943 (1943)
Format Public radio
Audience share 1.9 decrease (July 2010, [1])
ERP 8300 watts
HAAT 360 meters (1,180 ft)
Class B NCE
Facility ID 66649
Transmitter coordinates 41°53′56.1″N 87°37′23.2″W / 41.898917°N 87.623111°W / 41.898917; -87.623111Coordinates: 41°53′56.1″N 87°37′23.2″W / 41.898917°N 87.623111°W / 41.898917; -87.623111 (NAD83)
Former callsigns WBEZ-FM (1983–1988)
Affiliations NPR; Public Radio International; Public Radio Exchange; American Public Media; BBC World Service
Owner Chicago Public Media
Sister stations WBEW
Webcast MP3 stream (64kb/s)
Flash-based player
Website wbez.org
Logo until 2010

WBEZ is a noncommercial, public radio station broadcasting from Chicago, Illinois. Financed primarily by listener contributions, the station is affiliated with both National Public Radio and Public Radio International; they also broadcast content from American Public Media. The station and its parent organization used to be known as Chicago Public Radio; the parent company is now known as Chicago Public Media. Some of the organization's output is branded as WBEZ and some as Chicago Public Media.


Stations and call signs

Chicago Public Media (CPM) broadcasts its primary service on three FM radio stations, with call signs WBEZ (91.5 FM) in Chicago, WBEQ in Morris, Illinois (90.7 FM), and W217BM (91.3 FM) in Elgin, Illinois. Listeners can also receive the broadcast online with streaming audio, MP3 download or by podcast. As of 2006, the station draws an estimated 600,000 listeners each week.

CPM also operates a web site and radio station named Vocalo.org which broadcasts on radio station WBEW (89.5 FM) in Chesterton, Indiana.

CPR also managed Loyola University of Chicago's WLUW 88.7 FM, heard on the North Side of Chicago and adjacent suburbs for a few years in the early 21st century. Although WLUW receives equipment and legal assistance from CPR, it is now otherwise financially independent.


Chicago Public Radio began as an extension of the Chicago Board of Education and began broadcasting as WBEZ in 1943. For most of its early years, the station only broadcast instructional programs, operating during the school year on weekdays while Chicago Public Schools were in session. In 1972, WBEZ joined National Public Radio and began general programming outside of school hours, not completely dropping instructional programs until the early 1980s. Initially, most programming outside of the instructional programs and NPR programs was jazz music. The Board of Education sold the station to the current license holders, the not-for-profit WBEZ Alliance, Inc., in 1990.[2] The corporate name was changed in 2010 to Chicago Public Media, Inc. The general manager since 1995 is Torey Malatia.


Programming on Chicago Public Radio includes the usual world music, quiz shows, and international and local news on a regular basis. It offers such staples as All Things Considered, Car Talk, Marketplace, Morning Edition and A Prairie Home Companion. Currently, Chicago Public Radio is best known nationally as the producers of This American Life through Public Radio International, and Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! through NPR. Generally, news and talk programming is heard during the day, with arts and culture programming on the weekends. Legendary jazz disc jockey Dick Buckley had a time slot Sunday afternoons until mid-2008.

Chicago Public Radio was at one time the flagship station of Steve Cushing's nationally distributed Saturday night blues music program Blues Before Sunrise, which started in 1979 and has been independently produced and distributed by Cushing since 1995; the program now airs locally on station WDCB. The station is also the flagship station of The Annoying Music Show!, a 3-5 minute program (which airs during a station break) that showcases generally annoying songs. The program is produced by Nayder Communications, headed by former WBEZ program director Jim Nayder. (Nayder Communications also produces the somewhat more serious Magnificent Obsession, a program of interviews with persons who have overcome various addictions, which is carried by CPR.)

Its morning magazine program Eight Forty-Eight was named after the postal address of the station, 848 East Grand Avenue, though the name is sometimes misinterpreted as referring to its air time (originally 9:30am, currently 9:00am).

The other local program heard Monday-through-Friday is Worldview, an international news and analysis program that began in 1985 as Middday with Sondra Gair. After Gair's death in 1995, her producer Jerome McDonnell took over the program and has hosted since. It was heard nationally on Sirius Satellite Radio's now-defunct PRI channel from Sirius' inception until 2006. Starting March 2007, Worldview is aired on the satellite XMPR channel nightly.

The local arts program, Hello, Beautiful!, formerly aired Sunday mornings, but has now been canceled. The rock music talk show Sound Opinions, which moved from WXRT in 2005, is distributed nationally by American Public Media and airs in the prime spot between Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! and This American Life. The "radio comic strip" 11 Central Avenue airs on Friday mornings during Morning Edition and is distributed nationally through the Public Radio Exchange.

In addition, Chicago Public Radio founded Third Coast International Audio Festival, a showcase for independent radio producers, and the producer of the weekly program Re:sound. Also, CPR is a founding member of the Public Radio Exchange, a programming cooperative for public radio stations and independent producers.

Programming changes

As of January 8, 2007, overnight music programming has been dropped. The new schedule was posted on the station's website. In its place on weeknights are repeats of the daytime local programming and Fresh Air, the BBC World Service program Outlook, and newscasts from the World Radio Network. Malatia has stated on the CPR message boards that more local programming will be added in time, when proper funding is received.

The music programs remaining on the schedule are the world music program Radio M (formerly Passport) and PRI's Afropop Worldwide on Friday nights and PRI's American Routes on Saturday evenings. All other music hosts are being reassigned to other positions at the station, according to a March 2006 article in the Chicago Reader.

The replacement of music programming, which management said is caused by the prevalence and popularity of other music delivery systems, has caused controversy amongst many music buffs. Protest web sites were established; none remain active at this time.

A Time Out Chicago article from August 2006 describes the format as hosts in two-hour shifts programming what fits their fancy, be it interviews, pre-produced pieces, music or commentary. The general on-air tone of the hosts is to be more informal and personable than the usual public radio host, which is often perceived to be detached and stodgy. In line from this, Vocalo.org will not be marketed as a public radio station, will not broadcast any nationally-produced public radio programs and will not use on-air pledge drives as a funding source. Listener-supplied material will be culled from material uploaded to the station web site and recorded in neighborhood satellite studios and mobile recording stations at libraries, stores and events, similar to the "StoryBooths" of David Isay's StoryCorps project. Material will be posted on the web site for public listening and comment before broadcast.

A website was initially established at www.secretradioproject.com to gather people interested in participating in the new programming. The actual vocalo.org website is now in operation and streaming daily programs.


  1. ^ "Chicago, IL (3)". FMQB. Friday Morning Quarterback Album Report. http://www.fmqb.com/Article.asp?id=17916. Retrieved 2010-11-02. 
  2. ^ Feder, Robert (9 March 2010). "Feder's Chicago Media flashback March 1990". Vocalo.org. http://blogs.vocalo.org/feder/2010/03/feder%E2%80%99s-chicago-media-flashback-march-1990/17249#more-17249. Retrieved 10 March 2010. [dead link]

External links

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