History of WCBU
Peoria Public Radio History
WCBU signed-on officially on January 20th, 1970, thanks in part to Phil Weinberg, former dean of the Bradley University College of Engineering, who was the driving force behind the establishment of WCBU as a full power public radio station. WCBU is the direct descendant of WRBU, a studentradio service that operated out of the Bradley Student Center. By 1969 the transition was underway: WRBU became WCBU, which in 1970 became a charter member of the fledgling organization, National Public Radio.
The station’s coverage of the Peoria City Council meetings began its long run during those early days, anchored by Bradley students Fred Weinberg and Frank Thomas.
In late 1974 Thomas became WCBU’s first full-time operations manager. The station was going to leave behind its “student station” status, hire a staff and apply for CPB funding. WCBU recorded and broadcast Peoria Symphony Orchestra concerts as well as other musical events on campus and in the community
In the ‘80s WCBU received a grant that allowed an increase in power and begin broadcasting in stereo. The signal could now reach Galesburg and LaSalle and almost to Champaign. Beginning in 1981, the Radio Information Service has broadcast local newspapers, magazines and grocery ads to the blind over special receivers provided free of charge.
In the early 90s WCBU moved, when Bradley University joined Jobst Hall to the Jobst Hall Annex. By the time WCBU celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1995, “the times they were a-changin’”. Congress talked about “zeroing out” funding for public broadcasting, and WCBU responded by ramping up its membership drive goals from $25,000 in the spring of 1996 to $100,000 in the spring of 2003.
By 2005, the station’s program guide talked about “the challenge as we make the transition from analog FM broadcasting… to a digital, multicasting audio delivery service.” WCBU soon embraced digital or HD radio, with its ability to carry multiple channels from one transmitter. On February 15, 2007, WCBU2 went on the air. In 2010, programming was consolidated, and Peoria Public Radio now offers two distinct program services, News and Information on the main channel and 24 hours of classical music on HD. With an HD radio receiver, listeners can enjoy uninterrupted music or news by switching between the two broadcast program services. Both services are also available on the internet. Starting is summer of 2019, WCBU2 could also be heard on WGLT's translator at 103.5 FM in Peoria.
By 2019, several years of financial losses coupled with the impending decommissioning of Jobst Hall, led WCBU to a crossroads. The future of the station was very much in doubt, but in April of that year, Bradley University reached an agreement with Illinois State University to allow WGLT (ISU's public radio station in Bloomington-Normal) to manage WCBU on Bradley's behalf effective June 1, 2019. The agreement allows for WCBU to share business and management operations with WGLT, with each station maintaining seperate on-air staff in their respective communities. Since then, WCBU has increased the size of its local news staff with plans to further add as fundraising allows. Now branded as a "joint service of Bradley University and Illinois State University," WCBU moved to its current home on the fourth floor of Morgan Hall on the Bradley campus in November 2019.