WBEZ to shift more local programming from terrestrial radio to digital platforms

NPR affiliate is left with one live, local hour a day on 91.5 FM

Chicago public radio station WBEZ-FM is reducing an hour from its local weekday program Reset With Sasha-Ann Simons, starting an hour later than it did before – from noon to 1 p.m., but is expanding the show’s presence on digital platforms.

The news was first reported Tuesday evening by Axios.

The digital move is similar to a strategy used last year by fellow public broadcaster WTTW, who is also focusing on digital (with its Firsthand series), as it reduced the presence of Chicago Tonight on linear TV over the last two years.

The change is effective this Monday, according to a press release WBEZ published Wednesday morning on its website. Other changes include Here and Now filling the 11 a.m.-noon slot now occupied by Reset (in addition to its 2-3 p.m. airing) and Fresh Air/Science Fridays returning to middays, airing from 1-2 p.m. With Reset being cut to an hour, WBEZ is left with only one live and local weekday hour over its terrestrial airwaves.

Despite the reduction, WBEZ remains committed to the now hour-long show. “Reset is an extraordinary daily program that will continue to play a vital role in informing and connecting Chicagoans from all walks of life,” said Simons. “I’m honored to continue using my voice to serve the community in this next phase and excited about forging stronger bonds with our audiences on broadcast and digital platforms,” WBEZ said it would post more original Reset content on YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram.

Simons arrived at WBEZ in December 2020 and replaced Jenn White as the host of Reset during the first round of programming reductions.

The station – who merged with the Sun-Times two years ago to become the largest non-profit media entity in the country, has reduced its local programming over the last decade from four hours to one. This comes as Chicago Public Media CEO Matt Moog announced plans to step down nearly three months ago but would stay on until a successor is found, which hasn’t happened yet.

WBEZ has battled audience erosion for the last two years. In the most recent PPM ratings report, WBEZ finished thirteenth with a 2.7 rating, up from the 2.1 it earned during the “holiday” period when WLIT was dominating the ratings with Christmas music. However, the January number was down fifteen percent last October, the last period when Christmas music did not factor into the ratings equation. WBEZ topped the Chicago ratings four years ago in the 25-54 demo and finished in the top five as listening patterns changed at the dawn of the pandemic.

This latest move showcases the difficulty of traditional media such as radio, television, and newspapers to attract audiences in an era of digital distribution and cord-cutting. The pressure has been more prevalent with public media entities such as NPR and PBS, and the CBC in Canada.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *