WGLT Bloomington To Take Over Operations Of WCBU Peoria
Bradley University has found an operator for Public News/Talk “Peoria Public Radio” 89.9 WCBU Peoria IL as Illinois State University’s similarly formatted 89.1 WGLT Normal/Bloomington will begin managing the station on June 1.
As part of the deal, Bradley will retain ownership of WCBU’s license with ISU handling all facets of the station’s operations. WCBU will retain its current Public News/Talk format with some schedule changes to be announced, while WGLT will flip its Peoria translator 103.5 W278AE Peoria to a simulcast of WCBU’s HD2 Classical service.
WCBU has been looking for a new operations partner since last year when Bradley announced it planned to cease managing the station and demolish the building which houses its current studios. With this deal, WCBU will maintain a presence on the Bradley campus although many operational roles will be merged into WGLT’s headquarters.
After many months of discussions, Bradley University and Illinois State University have signed an agreement regarding WCBU, Peoria Public Radio. Effective April 17, 2019 Bradley and Illinois State University will begin working together to transition operational responsibility of WCBU to WGLT by June 1, 2019.
WCBU will remain at 89.9 with the same call letters, the station will still have a presence on Bradley’s campus, local news coverage and programming will continue, and Bradley will retain the FCC license. WCBU’s news and information format with programming primarily provided by National Public Radio will continue.
As part of the agreement, WGLT’s translator signal at 103.5 FM in Peoria, which currently simulcasts WGLT’s on-air signal, will begin simulcasting WCBU-HD2’s classical music format this summer. “We heard the listeners when they said how much they missed classical music, so we worked together to bring it back to this market” according to Zach Gorman, Bradley’s Chief Information Officer. Schedule changes for WCBU are still to be determined pending negotiations with public broadcasting show distributors.
WCBU will continue to have a presence on Bradley’s campus. “Operational roles will be combined with staff in Bloomington-Normal, but there will be staff committed solely to WCBU, and they will be housed on Bradley’s campus,” says WGLT General Manager R.C. McBride. “We know some have been concerned about a potential loss of localism at WCBU. We plan to increase WCBU’s local content, just as we have been able to do at WGLT over the last several years.” Bradley is building space in Morgan Hall and hopes to have conceptual drawings and renderings to share soon.
Personnel operations of the station will be managed by ISU. Employment contracts for all Bradley employees run June 1-May 31 and Gorman says “Because we know there will be a reduction in staff, we are working with WCBU employees to identify opportunities that fit their skills. Some of those opportunities could be available at WCBU under the management of ISU.”
Fundraising remains a necessity for the station’s continued success. “As WCBU supporters know, public broadcasting is a money-in, money-out business model. We hope to be able to fundraise beyond what’s needed merely to sustain current service,” McBride says. “We want to build a stronger local news service.” Beginning in June, all contributions made to WCBU will be handled by ISU, with those funds put into a separate account for the exclusive benefit of WCBU’s operations.
The community advisory board for WCBU will remain in place as required by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “I expect the board to both hold us accountable and be WCBU’s most vocal champions in the Peoria community,” McBride says.
WCBU (89.9 FM, PeoriaPublicRadio.org) and WGLT (89.1 FM, WGLT.org) are both non-commercial public radio stations. WCBU was founded in 1970 and is licensed to Bradley University in Peoria. WGLT is licensed to Illinois State University and began broadcasting in 1966.