|Broadcast area||Chicago metropolitan area|
|Frequency||91.5 MHz (HD Radio)|
|Subchannels||HD2: Vocalo (Urban alternative)|
|Affiliations||American Public Media|
BBC World Service
Public Radio International
Public Radio Exchange
|Owner||Chicago Public Media|
First air date
|April 7, 1943|
Former call signs
|42.5 MHz (1943-1947)|
|Federal Communications Commission|
|HAAT||425.1 meters (1,395 ft)|
|Translator(s)||See § Satellites and translators|
|Repeater(s)||See § Satellites and translators|
Public license information
WBEZ (91.5 FM) – branded WBEZ 91.5 – is a non-commercial educational radio station licensed to serve Chicago, Illinois, and primarily serving the Chicago metropolitan area. Financed by corporate underwriting, government funding and listener contributions, the station is affiliated with both National Public Radio and Public Radio International; it also broadcasts content from American Public Media. The station and its parent organization were previously known as Chicago Public Radio; since 2010, the parent company has been known as Chicago Public Media. Some of the organization's output—including nationally syndicated productions This American Life and Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!—is branded as either from WBEZ or Chicago Public Media.
In addition to a standard analog transmission, WBEZ broadcasts over two HD Radio digital subchannels, operates full-power repeater WBEQ (90.7 FM) in Morris, and is available online. WBEZ-HD2, carrying a user-generated content format focused on "urban alternative" and branded Vocalo.org, is also relayed over WBEW (89.5 FM) in Chesterton, Indiana.
WBEZ first went on the air on April 7, 1943, carrying instructional programming for the Chicago Public Schools. However, initially only a few classrooms were able to tune in, because most did not have FM receivers. It originally broadcast at 42.5 MHz, before moving to 91.5 MHz in 1947. Its transmitter was located atop Chicago's Morrison Hotel and its studios were in the Builders Building. In 1949, the station's transmitter was moved to Marshall Metropolitan High School in Chicago's East Garfield Park neighborhood. It is now atop the John Hancock Center.
For most of its early years, the station broadcast only instructional programs, operating on weekdays on which Chicago Public Schools were in session.
In 1970, WBEZ joined National Public Radio as a charter member and began general programming outside of school hours. 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. In September 1995 the parent company and station moved from its old offices to its current location at Navy Pier.
The corporate name was changed in 2010 to Chicago Public Media, Inc. Torey Malatia, the general manager, stepped down in July 2013 after 20 years with the station. Goli Sheikholeslami, formerly of The Washington Post, was appointed as CEO. She took office in April 2014. Goli Sheikholeslami left WBEZ to head New York Public Radio in fall 2019; Steve Edwards, back on staff at WBEZ since 2017, was named interim CEO as of the end of September 2019.
WBEZ broadcasts at 5,700 watts, which on paper is somewhat modest for an NPR member on the FM band. However, with its transmitter being located atop Chicago's second tallest building, its coverage area is largely comparable to Chicago's major commercial FM stations. Even so, some inner suburbs such as Waukegan, Aurora and Elgin only get a grade B signal.
2007 programming change
On January 4, 2007, the station's traditional overnight jazz programming was eliminated. The music program remaining on the schedule was the world music program Radio M (formerly Passport and in 2019 re-titled Radio Z) on Friday nights. All other music hosts were to be 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 was due to the prevalence and popularity of other music delivery systems, caused outrage amongst many in the Chicago jazz scene. Protest sites were organized but were unsuccessful. Legendary jazz disc jockey Dick Buckley retained a time slot Sunday afternoons until mid-2008.
Station management announced a five-year plan for Chicago-oriented programs to cover all seven hours between the national news programs.
Other program changes happened in October 2012, with various programs being reshuffled. At the same time, Smiley and West from PRI was quietly dropped from the Sunday afternoon line-up.
2019 Programming change
The last day WBEZ aired locally-produced international programming was October 4, 2019 with the final broadcast of Worldview with host Jerome McDonnell, which aired weekdays since 1994. The news on the hour at noon stopped being BBC news October 4, and started being NPR news on Monday October 7, 2019, the start of a week of transition.
A daytime hour of Newshour from the BBC World Service began Monday October 7, 2019, replacing The Morning Shift. Beginning Monday October 14, 2019, a new local talk show called Reset started. It was originally hosted by Jenn White. This was considered a shake-up of midday programs, which had not drawn as large an audience as the NPR morning and afternoon news programs, Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
Programming on WBEZ includes international news and local news including Curious City, world music, and quiz shows. Notable national programs offered by WBEZ include All Things Considered, Marketplace, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, PRI's The World and Live From Here. Generally, news and talk programming is heard during the day and overnight, with music and entertainment programming on the weekends.
WBEZ is best known nationally as the producer of This American Life through Public Radio Exchange, and Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! through NPR. This American Life began in 1995 as the local show Your Radio Playhouse; it was renamed in March 1996 and has been national since June 1996.
WBEZ was also the flagship station of The Annoying Music Show!, a 3-minute program that showcased generally annoying songs. The program was produced by former WBEZ program director Jim Nayder. Nayder Communications also produced the somewhat more serious Magnificent Obsession, a program of interviews with persons who have overcome various addictions. The station was also once 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 was eliminated from WBEZ's lineup in the 2007 restructuring, but was taken over by public radio station WDCB in nearby Glen Ellyn.
Its morning magazine program Eight Forty-Eight was initially named after the postal address of the station, 848 East Grand Avenue. The show was renamed to The Morning Shift, and was dropped in October 2019 in favor of a two-hour local talk show midday, called Reset.
The corresponding afternoon program was called The Afternoon Shift. WBEZ touted the program as "a live talk show featuring in-depth interviews and conversations with [mostly local] newsmakers, artists, writers, and innovators". Original host Steve Edwards left the station after a few months, and longtime Chicago Tribune journalist Rick Kogan temporarily replaced him. As of 2013 and the conclusion of Kogan's interim stint, WBEZ introduced Niala Boodhoo as the show's permanent on-air host. In 2015, WBEZ canceled "The Afternoon Shift"; the final episode aired on June 5, 2015.
The other local program heard Monday-through-Friday is Worldview, a global issues program that began in 1986 as Midday with Sondra Gair. After Gair's death in 1994, 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. Worldview aired its last program after 25 years on October 4, 2019.
Chicago Public Media is a founding member of the Public Radio Exchange (PRX), a programming cooperative for public radio stations and independent producers. The rock music talk show Sound Opinions, which moved from WXRT in 2005, was distributed nationally by American Public Media until 2010, when its distribution was transferred to PRX. PRX also distributes the film show Filmspotting.
News and news discussion/documentary programs aired on a weekly basis include Latino USA from NPR; Canadian CBC Radio shows Q, Ideas, and Under the Influence with Terry O'Reilly; and Radio Netherlands: The State We're In. Other programs that air weekly include Snap Judgment with Glynn Washington, a story-telling show from PRX and NPR.
Satellites and translators
In addition to its main transmitter on 91.5 FM, WBEZ extends its signal by operating full-power satellite WBEQ/Morris, Illinois (90.7 FM). The station also formerly operated a low-power translator in Elgin, Illinois (W217BM at 91.3). In 2013, Chicago Public Media purchased 91.7 W219CD in Elgin from LifeTalk Radio for $52,500, and W217BM moved to Chicago the following year and changed its frequency to 91.1 as W216CL.
CPM also operates a web site and radio station named Vocalo.org which broadcasts on WBEW (89.5 FM) in Chesterton, Indiana, as well as on the W216CL FM translator on 91.1. Vocalo is also heard on the HD2 channel of WBEZ. From 2002 to 2007, WBEW was operated as a satellite of WBEZ. CPM also owns the license to WRTE (90.7 FM); this station simulcasts College of DuPage-owned jazz station WDCB, but previously simulcast Vocalo programming with WBEW from 2012 to 2015.
CPR/CPM also previously 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. The arrangement terminated in 2007.
|Call sign||Frequency||City of license||Facility ID||Class||ERP
|WBEK||91.1 FM||Kankakee, Illinois||33327||A||2,600||77.3 m (254 ft)||Simulcasts WBEZ-FM/HD1|
|WBEQ||90.7 FM (HD)||Morris, Illinois||92544||A||1,470||142.6 m (468 ft)||Simulcasts WBEZ-FM/HD1|
|WBEW||89.5 FM (HD)||Chesterton, Indiana||3248||B1||4,000||181.9 meters (597 ft)||Simulcasts WBEZ-HD2|
|City of license||Facility ID||Class||ERP
|W216CL||91.1||Chicago, Illinois||91647||D||50||377.2 m (1,238 ft)||WBEZ-HD2|
|W219CD||91.7||Elgin, Illinois||90195||D||10||145 m (476 ft)||WBEZ (FM/HD1)|
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- "Schools' Own FM Station Is Ready to Test", Chicago Tribune. April 6, 1943. p. 16.
- History Cards for WBEZ, fcc.gov. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
- "FM Tower Shift Gets Zoning Ear: Move to Marshall High Asked", Chicago Tribune. February 1, 1948. Part 3, p. 1.
- Davy, Robert Leland (1948). Comparison of the Philosophies and Program Policies of Ten Educational Radio Stations (Thesis). University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- "History". Chicago Public Media. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
- Feder, Robert (March 9, 2010). "Feder's Chicago Media flashback March 1990". Vocalo.org. Archived from the original on March 11, 2010. Retrieved March 10, 2010.
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- Miner, Michael (August 14, 2013). "The highs and lows of longtime WBEZ visionary Torey Malatia". Chicago Reader.
- Miner, Michael. "Torey Malatia leaves WBEZ". Chicago Reader. Retrieved October 8, 2018.
- "CPM announces Goli Sheikholeslami as new CEO". Chicago Public Media. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- "Steve Edwards Named Interim CEO Of Chicago Public Media". WBEZ News. September 11, 2019. Retrieved October 6, 2018.
- Hammond, Andrew (January 5, 2007). "The End of Jazz on WBEZ". The Chicago Maroon.
- Margasak, Peter (October 20, 2006). "WBEZ: Less jazz, more talk". Chicago Reader.
- Margasak, Peter (July 25, 2008). "Dick Buckley's last sign-off". Chicago Reader.
- Galland, Zoe (September 4, 2012). "WBEZ's Steve Edwards to depart for U of C gig". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
- Riismandel, Paul (October 14, 2012). "Chicago's WBEZ is the 4th station to drop Smiley and West". Radio Survivor. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
- Feder, Robert (October 2, 2019). "Feder: WBEZ to debut midday talk show 'Reset with Jenn White' Oct. 14". Daily Herald. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
- Feder, Robert (May 23, 2019). "WBEZ to debut two-hour midday talk show this fall". Robert Feder: Chicago media served fresh daily since 1980. Retrieved October 6, 2019.
- "Curious City". Retrieved January 27, 2017.
- "WBEZ Program Schedule" (PDF) (PDF). WBEZ. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- "Lights! Camera! Ira?". Chicago Tribune. November 15, 2005.
- "Third Coast International Audio Festival". Third Coast International Audio Festival. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
- Eng, Monica (August 1, 2014). "Remembering 'Annoying Music Show' and 'Magnificent Obsession' host Jim Nayder". WBEZ. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- Margasak, Peter (December 6, 2006). "WDCB Saves Blues Before Sunrise". Chicago Reader.
- "Programs". WBEZ. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
- "The Afternoon Shift". WBEZ. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
- Akimoff, Tim (5 September 2012). "Steve Edwards departs for University of Chicago's Institute of Politics". WBEZ. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
- Janssen, Kim (September 4, 2012). "WBEZ's Steve Edwards heading to University of Chicago". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
- Feder, Robert (September 16, 2012). "Tribune's Kogan to keep 'Afternoon Shift' buzzing at WBEZ". Time Out Chicago. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
- "Rick Kogan Exits WGN-AM; Dean Richards To Replace Him". Chicagoland Radio and Media. September 21, 2012. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
- Channick, Robert (June 3, 2015). "WBEZ cancels 'The Afternoon Shift'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 6, 2019.
- Saxon, Wolfgang (May 28, 1994). "Sondra B. Gair Is Dead at 70; Host of Radio Show in Chicago". New York Times.
- Janssen, Mike (May 12, 2003). "PRX: online audio market begins beta test this month". Current.org. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- "Distribution for Sound Opinions moving from APM to PRX July 1". American Public Media. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- "PRX » Series » Filmspotting (weekly series)". PRX - Public Radio Exchange. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
- "Radio Netherlands: The State We're In". WBEZ. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
- "PRX » Snap Judgment". Public Radio Exchange. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
- "FCC Applications 6/12", RadioInsight. June 12, 2013. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
- "WDCB-FM Seeks Help From Listeners & FCC To Battle WBEZ-FM's Interfering Translator". Chicago Radio and Media. September 8, 2014. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
- Lapin, Andrew (August 15, 2013). "Malatia's exit from WBEZ leaves staff guessing". Current.org.
- "CHicago's Urban Alternative 91.1 FM (CHI) - 89.5 FM (NWI)". Vocalo. Retrieved November 9, 2019.
- "HD Radio Station Guide for Chicago, Illinois". Archived from the original on October 9, 2014.
- Isaacs, Deanna (July 7, 2007). "Picking Up Its Marbles: Loyola University takes back WLUW next year, but station manager Craig Kois is out now". Chicago Reader. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
- Official website
- WBEZ in the FCC FM station database
- WBEZ on Radio-Locator
- WBEZ in Nielsen Audio's FM station database
- WBEQ in the FCC FM station database
- WBEQ on Radio-Locator
- WBEQ in Nielsen Audio's FM station database
- W219CD in the FCC FM station database
- Third Coast International Audio Festival
- "The Business: All Talk", Chicago Reader, April 14, 2006, Section 2, p. 2