WBEW is a non-commercial educational (NCE), Class B1 public radio station on 89.5 MHz at Chesterton in Northwest Indiana. Since June 2007, the station has been the broadcast element of Vocalo, initially broadcasting primarily uploaded or e-mailed user-generated content; other Vocalo content is on the web but not broadcast over the FM station. Vocalo is the first Urban Alternative format radio station in the country. The format was officially launched in 2016. It is owned by Chicago Public Media and is a sister station to WBEZ in Chicago.
|Simulcasts WBEZ-HD2, Chicago, Illinois|
|Broadcast area||Northwest Indiana|
|Frequency||89.5 FM (HD Radio)|
|Branding||Vocalo Radio - Chicago's Urban Alternative|
|Owner||Chicago Public Media |
(The WBEZ Alliance, Inc.)
First air date
|1995 (as WAJW)|
Former call signs
|Federal Communications Commission|
|HAAT||181.9 meters (597 ft)|
Public license information
Initially, Vocalo hosts played content that listeners upload to the Vocalo.org website (which includes: personal stories, news items, music, interviews, commentary, fiction, poetry, comedy, etc.), by encouraging submissions through community training programs, providing access to equipment, and by teaching people how to use their telephones to record and submit pieces to the station. Currently, Vocalo hosts play music submitted by listeners to the Vocalo.org website.
WBEW came on the air in 1995 holding the call letters WAJW, and was owned by Auricle Communications. WAJW aired a Freeform radio format, largely simulcasting WFMU 91.1 in East Orange, New Jersey. In November 2002 WBEW was purchased by Chicago Public Media and its call letters were changed to WBEW. Chicago Public Media simulcast 91.5 WBEZ on the station from November 2002 until June 2007. Vocalo programming is now heard in downtown Chicago on a translator (W216CL) at 91.1 FM, fed via WBEZ-HD2.
Originally titled The Secret Radio Project, the website was created by Chicago Public Media in an attempt to create "radically public radio" that reached a more racially diverse and younger audience than NPR. The station adopted its current format on June 4, 2007. While created by Chicago Public Media, Vocalo.org is not marketed as a public radio station, does not broadcast nationally produced public radio programs and also does not openly use on-air pledge drives as a funding source. In January 2016, Vocalo's story-focused programming caught the attention of The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and the funder gave Chicago Public Radio $450,000 for research to “develop and refine a fresh format that can potentially be scaled to other public radio stations.”  By August 2017, Vocalo had officially began to base their sound and identity on hip-hop, dance, and R&B, a CPB-backed format serving as the template for the new Urban Alternative. The programming features lesser-known local artists alongside big names.
In January 2013, Vocalo began simulcasting on 90.7 FM WRTE in Chicago's west side. The WRTE signal was previously the youth driven bilingual (Spanish-English) community radio project called "Radio Arte" The signal was purchased from the National Museum of Mexican Art and subsequently moved to the 90.7 FM frequency and expanded. In late 2015, WRTE began simulcasting Glen Ellyn jazz station WDCB, strengthening the western suburban station's coverage in the city of Chicago.
- Careless, James (2007-12-05). "Vocalo.org: From Web to Broadcast". Radio World. New York City: NewBay Media. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
- Chicago Public Radio Outreach Program
- http://www.hdradio.com/station_guides/widget.php?id=4 HD Radio Guide for Chicago
- Call Sign History fcc.gov. Accessed August 26, 2012
- North East RadioWatch BostonRadio.com. July 15, 2002. Accessed August 26, 2012
- Feder, Robert. "WLS Radio hanging up on callers who 'sound old'" Chicago Sun Times. November 21, 2002.
- Current.org Fresh Startup Keeps Old Ideals
- Vocalo.org Official website
- Current.org Chicago’s Vocalo reins in eclectic approach but keeps focus on younger audience
- Current.org Music format highlighting hip-hop, other genres seeks home on public radio
- ChicagoRadioAndMedia.com Chicago Public Media Moves WRTE-FM To 90.7, Simulcasts Vocalo
- Vocalo.org, Vocalo.org's official site
- Vocalo article in the Hot Type section of the Chicago Reader
- Chicago Reader blogger Whet Moser's analysis on Vocalo
- Chicago Reader blogger Whet Moser's previous analysis on Vocalo
- WBEW in the FCC FM station database
- WBEW on Radio-Locator
- WBEW in Nielsen Audio's FM station database