|City of license||Cleveland, Ohio|
|Broadcast area||Greater Cleveland
|Slogan||The All-Day Brain Food|
|First air date||November 21, 1938|
|Callsign meaning||Cleveland Public Network|
|Former callsigns||WBOE (1938–78)|
|Former frequencies||41.5 MHz (1938–41)
42.5 MHz (1941–48)
|Affiliations||BBC World Service
Public Radio International
|Sister stations||WCLV, WVIZ|
WCPN (90.3 FM) – branded 90.3 WCPN – is a non-commercial educational radio station licensed to Cleveland, Ohio. Owned by Ideastream, the station serves Greater Cleveland and much of surrounding Northeast Ohio. Broadcasting a mix of public radio and jazz, WCPN is the Cleveland affiliate for NPR, Public Radio International, and the BBC World Service. The WCPN studios are located at Playhouse Square in Downtown Cleveland, while the station transmitter resides in the Cleveland suburb of Parma. Besides a standard analog transmission, WCPN broadcasts over two HD Radio channels, and is available online.
WBOE was initially licensed on November 21, 1938 to the Cleveland Board of Education to broadcast on 41.5 MHz with 500 watts using high-frequency AM (also referred to as Apex). Facilities were located in the Lafayette School on Abell Avenue. Two months later, the station moved to the sixth floor of the Board of Education Building on East 6th Street. The studios remained there until 1973/74.
By 1940 it was joined by a few other educational stations, such as WNYE in New York, broadcasting in the spectrum of 41-43 MHz using AM, although it was presumed these educational stations would change to FM when such broadcasting became practical.
In September 1940, WBOE requested authority to relinquish its 41.5 MHz AM operation and change to FM operation on 42.5 MHz. In March 1941 WBOE became an FM station, broadcasting with 1,000 watts on 42.5 MHz, the first educational station to convert to FM. At the time FM broadcasting was in its infancy and only about a dozen FM stations were on the air in the entire country, most of them experimental stations.
In 1945 the FCC decided to shift all FM broadcasting up to the present spectrum of 88-108 MHz, with 88-92 MHz reserved for noncommercial broadcasting. Initially, WBOE changed its frequency to 44.5 FM on May 1, 1947. This change was necessitated by an FCC decision to allocate the 42-45 Megacycle band to non-government fixed and mobile services.
WBOE moved to 90.3 MHz on August 3, 1948, increasing its power to 3,000 watts with an effective radiated power of 10,000 watts. The change to 90.3 FM caused quite a controversy due to the costs schools would incur to buy new radios and the time they needed to budget for it. Subsequently, WBOE requested reauthorization for 44.5 FM "for as long as possible" (original letter to FCC 07/13/1948). From September 1, 1948 to the end of the year, WBOE was licensed to broadcast on both frequencies.
On January 1, 1949, a Modified license authorized WBOE to broadcast solely on 90.3 FM. On December 9, 1959. WBOE increased power to 5,000 watts, with an E.R.P. of 15,000 watts. In 1973/74, WBOE had new studio facilities built at 10600 Quincy Avenue in the eastern side of Cleveland. In 1975/76 the station's power was increased to 50,000 watts with the transmitter and tower in Parma, Ohio, one of the southwestern Cleveland suburbs.
Until December 1976, WBOE's programming was limited primarily to instructional programming, mostly intended for Cleveland school classrooms. Generally the station broadcast from 7:55 a.m. or 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. on school days; school programming would often end at 3:00 p.m. Light entertainment, public service or educational programs of general interest would conclude the broadcast day.
Under the direction of Dr. William B. Levenson, the station won national recognition for its use of radio broadcasts synchronized with lantern slides and playscripts, speakers on such topics as health and science, and student-produced programs on current events and student etiquette were aired. Cleveland school district teachers and curriculum administrators often hosted the shows.
Series/programs in most curriculum areas were featured. Most programs for in-school use ran for no more than 15 minutes. Until the use of reel-to-reel audio tape in the 1950s, programs were recorded onto 16" Electrical Transcription (E.T.) discs. Upon examination of these discs, it seems that many programs were broadcast live, and recorded simultaneously for repeat later.
For example, in the mid-and-late 1940s, the Social Studies department produced Current Topics, which discussed current events in the news. A duo of children's story-time series were called Once Upon A Time and The Story Lady. A practical science series was titled Electrical Living. Later on, a mathematics competition series, Get The Answer Right!, debuted. During the 1950s through the 1970s, 15-minute segments from the "All City Music Groups" performances were broadcast. Throughout most of its life, WBOE also aired non-commercial and educational programs from other producers and distributors. In the 1940s, these included series produced by other Cleveland radio stations.
Public Radio Involvement
By the mid-1960s, if not before, the predecessors to National Public Radio - NERN (National Educational Radio Network) and NAEB (National Association of Educational Broadcasters) - distributed programs produced by member stations for use on WBOE and other stations. An example of one of the general-interest programs was The Old Record Box, a 15-minute series featuring cylinder records from the turn-of-the-century, produced in the mid-1960s by WFBE, the station owned by the Flint, Michigan Board of Education. In the 1970s National Public Radio continued to provide this service to educational stations. Examples of educational programs for in-school use included What You See Is What You Get, a social studies/economics program, and the English-language program Fun From The Dictionary. The WBOE-produced series Drama On Stage and Screen was picked up and distributed nationally by NPR. This series featured interviews conducted by WBOE's best known broadcaster, Cecilia Evans. She interviewed people involved in stage, screen and television careers, such as actor Greg Morris of CBS-TV's Mission: Impossible series.
As educational television developed, the effectiveness of educational radio was reduced, and work began in the early 1970s to build WBOE into a National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate. Progress was slowed by technical matters, including concern that WBOE's 50,000 watt signal might interfere with the TV audio of WVIZ/PBS channel 25. It has been estimated by WBOE's station manager of the time that this technical issue stopped the debut of NPR in the Cleveland market by over a year. From December 20, 1976 through December 31, 1976, WBOE increased its broadcast day until 6:30 p.m. for the airing of the popular NPR program All Things Considered.
On January 1, 1977 WBOE increased to an 18-hour-per-day, 7-day-a-week schedule (6:00 a.m. to Midnight). Programming for in-school use continued on school days from 8:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Adult, NPR, ethnic and other programming consumed the rest of the broadcast day and all day on weekends. Locally produced programming included Yes, You Can!, a weekly feature designed to encourage adults to continue their education; Parenting, a family life series; and Elementary School Highlights.
Death of WBOE
In its final years, WBOE-FM's staff included station manager Jay Robert Klein (whose five-minute weekly feature You and Your Wheels featured up-to-date information about automobiles and discussed issues pertaining to automobile transportation); coordinator Charles Siegel (who produced shows like Cavities Don't Care and The Ins and Outs of Gardening); Karl Johnson, the producer–host of the morning-drive show Thank Goodness, It's (name of day) which aired Monday–Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.; senior high school programmer Cecilia Evans, who was an award-winning Cleveland broadcaster providing theater reviews for WBOE and commercial station WERE-AM; Tom Altenbernd, who was the junior high school programmer; and elementary programmer Ervine Jaworski.
The technical staff included First Class engineers Bill Nelson, who died in 1976 and was replaced by Ed Shaper, Al Hrivnak and Dennis Batig (who hosted a 1950s and 1960s music show, Let The Good Times Roll). Full-time board operators and production personnel were Ted Mazurowski and Richard Shenker. Part-time personnel included John L. Basalla, Jim Stincic, and Bruce Van Valkenburg. Basalla produced Rock Concepts, and Stincic produced Sessions In Swing, using the air name "Jim Matthews".
The Cleveland school system entered a difficult period in the late 1970s, as it was faced with a massive court-mandated desegregation order. Additionally, an ad hoc community group, believing that the in-school programming should cease in favor of full-time "adult" NPR fare, took steps to take control of the radio station. Due to a teachers' strike, school programming did not resume as scheduled in September 1978. The financially strapped Board of Education finally took WBOE off the air the next month.
WBOE's final day of broadcasting was October 7, 1978. At the stroke of midnight, the final program was broadcast. Station manager Jay Robert Klein and Cleveland newspaper journalist Dick Feagler provided a pre-recorded eulogy. The 90.3 frequency fell silent until the fall of 1984, save for the sideband broadcast of the Cleveland Radio Reading Service (CRRS). CRRS temporarily ceased broadcasting in May 1982.
The non-commercial license was still available, and an effort was organized to restart a public radio station for Cleveland. Kent State University's station, WKSU, had been the sole full NPR member in Northeast Ohio since the network's beginnings in 1971 (the station itself dates back to 1953). WKSU provides a strong signal to most of the Cleveland area, and to this day claims Cleveland as part of its primary coverage area. However, WKSU lacked programming directed specifically to the immediate Cleveland/Cuyahoga County region; the main city in its service area was Akron.
In 1979, the Cleveland Public Library bid $205,000 for WBOE-FM's license, which ended up beating out a $200,000 bid by the Northern Ohio Public Radio group ten days before. An attempt by Cleveland Public Radio to bid $234,360.87 was rejected because the group could not immediately make a minimum $200,000 cash payment. Plans were made for the station to be moved from the old WBOE eastside Cleveland studios to the main library downtown, with a proposed change in call letters to WCPL (Cleveland Public Library).
The effort by the library eventually failed, and the license wound up in the hands of Cleveland Public Radio anyway. By July 6, 1983, Cleveland Public Radio had changed the WBOE callsign to WCPN. WGAR (AM), by then a country music outlet, donated its entire jazz record collection to WCPN, in order for the station to begin a jazz format. The side band service for print-impaired people was reactivated in May 1984. So transmission from WCPN began exactly as WBOE's had ended, with no sound on the main carrier, so persons with the special receivers could hear the radio reading service programming. A kick-off party with 1,200 people in attendance, was held for WCPN on August 5, 1984. By that September 8, WCPN officially started broadcasting with a live show featuring vocalist Mel Torme, and went to 24-hour service on January 1, 1985. A little-remembered side note is that just prior to the live Mel Torme show, WCPN broadcast an album by the Beatles, possibly for testing purposes and/or to have something on the air for people to hear when they dialed up 90.3 FM.
WCPN's daytime program has a heavy emphasis on news and informational programming, most of it originating with NPR, such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Car Talk. It also carries popular public radio programs from other sources such as A Prairie Home Companion, Whad'Ya Know?, and Marketplace from American Public Media. Much of this programming duplicates programming broadcast on WKSU-FM which can also be heard throughout much of the Cleveland market. It also originates local news reports and an hour-long current events talk show at 9 a.m. each morning called The Sound of Ideas (formerly 90.3 @ 9). Around Noon, a show focusing on arts and culture in Northeast Ohio, airs weekdays at noon.
In the evenings after 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., programming shifts to jazz, and then shifts to a simulcast of the BBC World Service from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. Monday through Friday. (Weekend overnights are filled with jazz music.) Since WKSU-FM concentrates on a classical music format and since WCLV also broadcasts a classical music format, WCPN's programming in this respect is unique to the Cleveland market.
On weekends, the evening programming consists almost entirely of national programming, with one-hour blocks dedicated to programming of nationality-based music and discussion. These shows were added in as a requirement for WCPN to operate before it began operating, mostly because former ethnic stations WXEN and WZAK had abandoned these formats some years earlier.
Airing these shows has not come easy for WCPN; attempts to move these shows to different times (or reduce the number of hours altogether) in order to broaden the scope of the weekend lineup has resulted in significant protests by the communities targeted as audiences. The last attempt to change the lineup occurred in 1996, and resulted in threats by the Ohio State Legislature to cut off funding for WCPN, in response to which the station relented on its plans. Ethnic programming airs Saturday nights from 8pm to 10pm and Sundays from 4pm to 11pm.
- Washington, Julie (2009-11-29). "Ideastream partners WVIZ Channel 25 and WCPN 90.3 enjoy benefits of merger". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 2009-11-30.
- "Stations | More Music. More Stations. More Features. Digital Sound. No Subscription". HD Radio. Retrieved 2012-11-08.
- Official website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WCPN
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WCPN
- Radio-Locator information on WCPN
- Encyclopedia of Cleveland History: WCPN
- Cleveland Broadcast Radio Archives: WCPN timeline