Monday, August 20, 2018


“We’d love to have WCBU.”

A ray of sunshine appeared recently in Peoria regarding the future of NPR News station WCBU. 

Maurice “Moss” Bresnahan, CEO of WILL-TV, AM/FM, Urbana and CEO of WTVP-TV, Peoria told the Peoria Journal Star [link] that he is in negotiations with officials at Bradley University about acquiring WCBU. A spokesperson for Bradley University confirmed the discussions.

The situation at WCBU became increasingly grim during recent years. Bradley University, the licensee of WCBU, needs to move WCBU’s offices and studios in 2019 because the building that now houses them will be demolished. When Bradley saw the projected cost of the move, they began to question whether they wanted to stay in the public radio business.

In May, Bradley University President Gary Roberts said at a University meeting that estimates of the cost to move WCBU to a new location were “discouraging.” Roberts added that “a difficult decisions about the future of WCBU will have to be made.”

Gary Roberts
Roberts’ comments caused near panic  at WCBU.   

As we reported in May [link] President Robert’s remarks fit a pattern of benign neglect by Bradley towards the station. 

Since May, Roberts has been discussing a “partnership” with other public media organizations in the area. 

Roberts said the goal is to move WCBU off the Bradley campus. Observers speculate that Roberts wants to find an organization that will take over operation of WCBU via a Public Service Operating Agreement (PSOA). In this scenario, Bradley would keep the license for WCBU but wouldn't have to pay the cost of moving it to a new location.

Two potential partners immediately came to mind: Peoria’s PBS TV station WCPT, a community licensee operated by Moss Bresnahan, and WGLT, an NPR News and Jazz station licensed to Illinois State University in nearby Bloomington-Normal.

Peoria's skyline and the Riverfront area
WGLT doesn’t appear to have the resources to absorb WCBU. In FY 2017, according to IRS filings, WGLT had annual revenue of approximately $1.8 million, including $280,000 from Illinois State. In the same year WCBU’s annual revenue was around $1.1 million, including $327,000 from Bradley.  Without considerable outside funding, WGLT can’t be WCBU’s partner.

This leaves Bresnahan’s organizations as the best local choice.


Moss Bresnahan has an impressive media background. Now in his early 40s, the Boston native previously managed public TV stations in Seattle, South Carolina, Virginia and the Quad Cities. Before moving into public media management he worked on the cable TV industry and he was a press aid for the Mayor of Boston.

Since 2014, Bresnahan has been CEO of Illinois Public Media (IPM), the licensee of WILL-AM, WILL-FM and WILL-TV at the University of Illinois. IPM also has an impressive digital presence and is nationally known provider of educational media. IPM’s annual revenue in FY 2017 was $7.3 million.

In 2015, Bresnahan also became CEO of WTVP, the PBS affiliate in Peoria. Bresnahan commutes between Peoria and Urbana, a distance of approximately 120 miles.

WTVP HQ on the Riverfront
WYVP [link] had annual revenue of around $3.2 million in FY 2016. 

Over half of the income came from private sources such as members and underwriters. 

WTVP operates from a new building in Peoria’s Riverfront area. 

Portions of the building are available for rent, so there is likely plenty of room for WCBU.


WGLT has a translator in Peoria but the majority of NPR News/Talk listeners chose hometown WCBU. 

WCBU is under-performing its potential for a market of 250,000 people. 

The downward trend in AQH share indicates people are listening to WCBU for less time than they were in Spring 2017.

In Bloomington/Normal, a quintessential college town with 100,000 people, listening to WGLT has declined compared to Spring 2017. 

The drop in estimated weekly listeners and the sinking AQH share should be of concern to WGLT’s management.

Meanwhile, things are looking up at WZND, an excellent college station based at Illinois State in Normal [link]. College radio listeners are notably fickle and WZND’s consistent ratings in book after book indicates that a knowledgeable programmer is on the scene.


Mike Savage
We are pleased to report that Mike Savage, former GM at WBAA AM/FM in Indiana is the new GM at WEKU in Richmond, Kentucky. 

WEKU [link] is a dual-format station (NPR News and Jazz) that competes in the Lexington market.

Savage is a 25-year communications pro who served on NPR’s Board of Directors. 

On the Board, he won praise for his work on the NPR Board for his advocacy on behalf of smaller NPR stations.

Savage starts his new gig on Tuesday 8/21.

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