WBBM (780 AM) is an all-news radio station located in Chicago, Illinois, United States. Owned by Entercom, its studios are located at Two Prudential Plaza in the Loop neighborhood, and its transmitter site is in Itasca. WBBM is a Class A station which broadcasts on a clear-channel AM frequency. Its daytime signal provides at least grade B coverage to large portions of Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and Indiana, and city-grade coverage as far north as Milwaukee. At night, it is strongest in the Midwest but also covers much of the eastern half of North America.
|City||Chicago, Illinois, United States|
|Broadcast area||Chicago metropolitan area|
|Branding||WBBM Newsradio 780 and 105.9 FM|
|Slogan||Chicago's All-News Station|
|Frequency||780 kHz (also on HD Radio)|
|First air date||February 6, 1924|
|Class||A (Clear channel)|
|Transmitter coordinates||Coordinates: (main antenna)|
|Callsign meaning||None (sequentially assigned)|
|Affiliations||CBS Radio Network|
(which also includes CBS News), Bloomberg Radio, WBBM-TV
(Entercom License, LLC)
|Sister stations||WBBM-FM, WCFS-FM, WBMX, WSCR, WUSN, WXRT|
The most-common "program" on WBBM is a live rolling "news wheel" that begins at the top of each hour, structured into segments of news, traffic, weather, sports, and Bloomberg's business updates. The scheduling of these segments is similar to that of sister stations WWJ and KCBS. This news wheel is interruptible at all moments due to breaking local news events or significant national events that necessitate longer-form coverage.
Other programs featured on WBBM include: Noon Business Hour, hosted by Cisco Cotto and Kris Kridel; At Issue, public affairs interviews with Craig Dellimore; CBS News Weekend Roundup; old-time radio programme When Radio Was; audio portions of 60 Minutes and Face the Nation; and live broadcasts of all 22 games that involve the Chicago Bears from August to January.
WBBM also broadcasts 60 second light segments throughout the day, such as Real Estate Feature, Made In Chicago, Innovation Minute, Eating Right, among others. All of these segments are also available as podcasts. Current on-air staff includes: Pat Cassidy, Felicia Middlebrooks, Cisco Cotto, Kris Kridel, Keith Johnson and Nick Young.
WBBM was first licensed on January 31, 1924 to the Frank Atlass Produce Company at 110 Park Place in Lincoln, Illinois. The station's primary founder, 29-year-old Harry Leslie "Les" Atlass, had extensive earlier radio experience. In 1911, he had reportedly constructed a simple spark transmitter set. Three years later his then 11-year-old younger brother, Ralph, constructed an apparently unlicensed amateur radio station at the family home, that was described as "chief wireless station" of the newly-formed Lincoln United Wireless Association. With the April 1917 entrance of the United States into World War One the federal government took full control of the radio industry, and it became illegal for civilians to operate radio transmitters and receivers. After the conclusion of the war the civilian radio restrictions were lifted. Les Atlass' continuing interest in radio led in mid-1923 to his obtaining a license to operate an amateur radio station, 9DFC.
Although the original spark radio transmitters were only capable of producing the dots-and-dashes of Morse code, the development of vacuum-tube transmitters made audio transmissions practical. In the early 1920s this led to the introduction of organized broadcasting, and by the end of 1922 over 500 broadcast stations were operating in the United States. Amateur radio stations were not permitted to make broadcasts intended for the general public. However during April 1923 Les Atlass, in conjunction with the Lincoln Courier, broadcast local election results over 9DFC, claiming as a technicality that instead of a prohibited public broadcast, he was merely transmitting information to a second amateur, which by chance (and through publicity in the local newspaper) others might overhear.
A few months later Atlass procured a proper broadcasting license with the call letters WBBM, and the station made its debut broadcast on the evening of February 6, 1924, transmitting on 1330 kHz. The station's call letters had been randomly assigned from an alphabetic list maintained by the Department of Commerce, and during the inaugural broadcast Atlass adopted a representative slogan of "We Broadcast Better Music". (Over the years, additional slogans would include "We Broadcast Broadmoor Music", "World's Best Broadcast Medium", and "Where Better Broadcasts Materialize".)
WBBM's time in Lincoln was brief. In mid-February 1924, it was announced that the Frank Atlass Produce Company, the family business where Les Atlass was president, had been sold, and he was preparing to move to Chicago. The last reported broadcast in Lincoln occurred on April 14th, after which the station was dismantled, and its equipment shipped to Les Atlass' newly purchased Chicago home. The station was officially deleted a few months later.
Shortly after moving to Chicago, Les Atlass returned to the airwaves, and received a new license for a broadcasting station operated from his home at 7421 Sheridan Road, again with the call letters WBBM and transmitting on 1330 kHz, now with himself as the licensee.
In 1925, station ownership was transferred to the Atlass Investment Company, with the station located at 1554 Howard Street, now transmitting with 1,500 watts. On June 4, 1925, studios and transmitter were moved to the Broadmoor Hotel in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood. "95.99%" of the station's programming was devoted to music during this period, including live musical broadcasts aired from a small studio in the lobby of the hotel. In 1926, the Stewart-Warner corporation leased the station's full schedule, and began producing all of its programming.
On June 15, 1927 WBBM moved to 770 kHz with 1,000 watts, sharing time with Chicago stations WAAF (now WNTD) and WJBT. Later in the year power was increased to 5,000 watts. On November 11, 1928, under the provisions of General Order 40, the Federal Radio Commission implimented a major reallocation of the AM broadcasting band. WAAF was reassigned to 920 kHz, while WBBM and WJBT remained at 770 kHz, with the frequency now designated a "clear channel" assignment. WJBT's license was acquired by the Atlass Investment Company, and the two stations were consolidated as WBBM-WJBT, although the latter call sign was rarely, if ever, used. Its transmitter was moved to Glenview, Illinois and its studios were moved to the Wrigley Building. Powers for clear channel stations could potentially be up to 50,000 watts, and WBBM's was increased to 10,000 watts in 1928 and 25,000 watts the following year.
The station began a long association with the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) on September 27, 1928, when it joined the network as Chicago's second affiliate, WMAQ (now WSCR) having joined the network at its launch one year earlier. CBS bought a controlling interest in WBBM in 1929, and in 1931 it purchased the remaining station stock. Les Atlass remained at the station, while Ralph left and purchased station WLAP in Louisville.
On May 15, 1933, the station discontinued the WJBT dual call letter usage and reverted to just WBBM, after the Federal Radio Commission requested that stations using only one of their assigned call letters drop those that were no longer in regular use.
As part of the November 11, 1928 AM band reorganization, KFAB in Lincoln, Nebraska had also been assigned to transmit on 770 kHz. WBBM and KFAB were far enough apart to allow concurrent operation during the daytime, but their longer range nighttime signals required coordination to avoid mutual interference. Initially the stations established a timesharing agreement for nighttime hours. However, in early 1932 KFAB switched network affiliation from NBC to CBS, and the fact that now much of their evening programming was identical allowed for an improved accommodation, by establishing simultaneous "synchronized" broadcasting of their common programming. The synchronized operation began on January 27, 1934.
WBBM's power was increased to 50,000 watts in 1935. In March 1941, as part of the implementation of the North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement, both WBBM and KFAB were shifted to 780 kHz. After the attack on Pearl Harbor and the resulting U.S. entry into World War II, there was an increase in air traffic at Naval Air Station Glenview, and the Navy asked WBBM to move its towers to a new location. As a result, the station's towers and transmitter were moved to Itasca, Illinois on May 1, 1942. During World War II, much of WBBM's programming was devoted to the war effort.
In 1948, KFAB was relocated to Omaha, and was also reassigned to 1110 kHz, freeing up WBBM to begin operating fulltime on 780 kHz and end the nighttime synchronized broadcasts. In 1956, WBBM's studios were moved to a location on North McClurg Court, with the rest of CBS' Chicago operations, where it remained until moving to Two Prudential Plaza in 2006. Les Atlass held various senior level management positions with WBBM and CBS until his retirement November 29, 1959 on his 65th birthday. He died the next year.
The station maintained a MOR/Personality-based format until 1964, when it became a news/talk station. WBBM adopted its current all-news format in 1968. The station has been the flagship station of the Chicago Bears since 2000, and in its history has also aired games from the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Blackhawks.
Over the years, WBBM fended off competition from other all-news stations that were attempted in the market: McLendon-owned WNUS-AM-FM (1390 AM, now WGRB and 107.5 FM, now WGCI-FM), NBC's WNIS-FM (101.1 FM), and from Group W's WMAQ, which came under the CBS umbrella when Westinghouse Electric Corporation purchased CBS in 1995 (sports-talk WSCR took over WMAQ's 670 AM frequency in 2000). For many years, WBBM has been in a spirited battle with rival news/talk/sports station WGN for the position of the #1 radio station in the Chicago market. In the June 2009 ratings period, as estimated by Arbitron, WGN held a slight edge over WBBM in PPM metered listenership ratings. However, since the fall of 2009, WBBM has regained the lead while WGN's listenership began to decline. Another challenge to WBBM's news radio domination from Merlin Media (operated by former Tribune Company executive Randy Michaels), which purchased FM station WKQX (the successor to WNIS-FM) in June 2011 and flipped formats as the female-focused FM News 101.1 the next month, was fended off by WBBM with the launch of the WCFS-FM simulcast. The AM signal is all but unlistenable in portions of downtown, particularly in office buildings; WCFS serves mainly to improve WBBM's coverage in these areas. Meanwhile, the clear channel signal is easily receivable throughout the Midwest, and at night, most of the eastern United States west of the Appalachian Mountains, and portions of the Southwest.
On August 1, 2011, much of WBBM's programming began to be simulcast at 105.9 MHz over sister station WCFS-FM. The FM station's call letters were retained and should not be confused with WBBM-FM, a CHR/Top 40 station; WCFS's former adult contemporary format was retained in an automated form over its 105.9 HD2 subchannel.
On June 5, 2014, the Chicago Cubs announced that the flagship station for their radio broadcasts would move from WGN (720 AM) to WBBM for the 2015 season under a seven-year deal. The deal ended the team's 90-year association with WGN; the station had broadcast Cubs games from its establishment in 1924, became its exclusive broadcaster in 1958, and was co-owned with the Cubs by Tribune Company from 1981 to 2009. Cubs games were only broadcast on WBBM's AM feed, so that the FM feed could continue to broadcast WBBM's regular all-news programming uninterrupted. The arrangement lasted only one season: after sister station WSCR lost the White Sox to WLS for the 2016 season, an option was invoked which allowed the Cubs to move to WSCR in their place.
On February 2, 2017, CBS agreed to merge CBS Radio with Entercom, currently the fourth-largest radio broadcaster in the United States; the sale will be conducted using a Reverse Morris Trust so that it will be tax-free. While CBS shareholders retain a 72% ownership stake in the combined company, Entercom was the surviving entity, separating WBBM radio (both 780 and FM 96.3) from WBBM-TV. The merger was approved on November 9, 2017, and was consummated on the 17th. Despite that, WBBM radio and WBBM-TV maintain a strong partnership. On March 1, 2018, Entercom launched a new website for WBBM alone on their Radio.com portal, breaking it off from the former CBS Chicago portal.
In 2018, WBBM was granted a construction permit to move its transmitter to WSCR's transmitter site in Bloomingdale. WBBM's power would be reduced to 35,000 watts during the day and 42,000 watts at night.
- Mal Bellairs Broadcaster
- Chris Berry – Director, News and Programming
- Chris Boden – Sportscaster
- John Callaway – News Director (deceased)
- Harry Caray – White Sox Play by Play; (deceased)
- Brian Davis – Sportscaster
- Pat Foley – Blackhawk Hockey Play by Play
- Paul Gibson – Broadcaster
- Rich King – Sports Director (retired from WGN-TV)
- Suzanne Le Mignot – Reporter (now at WBBM-TV)
- Brent Musburger – Sports Director; (retired)
- Lee Phillip – Broadcaster
- Jimmy Piersall – White Sox Color Commentator (deceased)
- Chuck Schaden – Broadcaster
- Carole Simpson – Reporter
- Dale Tallon – Blackhawk Hockey Color Commentator
- Jay Andres – American Airlines Music Till Dawn
- "'We Broadcast Better Music': WBBM Goes on the Air in Lincoln, Illinois" by William B. Tubbs, Illinois Historical Journal, Vol. 89, No. 3 (Autumn, 1996), pp. 161-174.
- "Tower Site of the Week: WBBM 780, Chicago" by Scott Fybush, January 4, 2008 (fybush.com)
- http://hdradio.com/station_guides/widget.php?id=4 Archived 2016-09-16 at the Wayback Machine HD Radio Guide for Chicago
- Feder, Robert (15 July 2011). "It's official: CBS to expand Newsradio brand with FM simulcast". Time Out Chicago. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
- History Cards for WBBM, fcc.gov. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
- "New Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, February 1, 1924, page 4.
- "H. Leslie Atlass Dies; Founded Radio Station WBBM at Lincoln", Decatur (Illinois) Herald, November 19, 1960, page 1. Prior to 1923, there are no licensed amateur stations reported for either Atlass brother in the government's annual lists.
- "[Ralph] Atlass Recalls 50 Years in Radio" by Larry Wolters, Chicago Tribune, February 23, 1964, Section 10, Radio B.
- "Happenings at Lincoln", The Bloomington (Illinois) Pantagraph, September 10, 1914, page 10.
- "WAR!", QST, May 1917, page 3.
- "Removal of Restrictions on Radio Receiving Stations", United States Bulletin, April 28, 1919, page 11.
- "Restrictions on Radio Amateurs Removed", Radio Service Bulletin, October 1, 1919, page 7.
- "Ninth District", Amateur Radio Stations of the United States (June 30, 1923 edition) page 268. The leading "9" in 9DFC's call sign indicated that the station was located in the 9th Radio Inspection district, and the fact that the "D" fell in the range of A-W reflected the fact that the station was operating under a standard amateur station license.
- "Radiophone Broadcasting Stations" (WBBM entry), Radio Digest, April 18, 1925, page 23.
- "Boy's Hobby Grows Up Into Station WBBM", Radio Digest, November 21, 1925, pages 6, 28.
- "A Continuing Study of Major Radio Markets: Study No. 7: Chicago.", Broadcasting — Telecasting, October 25, 1948. pp. 14, 17. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
- "Strike Out All Particulars", Radio Service Bulletin, October 1, 1924, page 6.
- "Mrs. Roosevelt Dedicates South Side Art Center". Chicago Tribune. May 8, 1941. Retrieved 2015-11-02.
- "New Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, December 1, 1924, page 2.
- "Alterations and Corrections", Radio Service Bulletin, July 1, 1925, page 10.
- Schaden, Chuck (1988). WBBM Radio: Yesterday & Today. WBBM Newsradio 78, Chicago, Il. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
- "Broadcasting Stations" (effective June 15, 1927), Radio Service Bulletin, May 31, 1927, page 5.
- Report on Chain Broadcasting. Federal Communications Commission. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1941. p. 23. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
- "Brothers to Part", Washington (D.C) Evening Star, February 22, 1931, Part 4, page 9.
- "Double Call Letters Are Being Eliminated", Washington (D.C.) Evening Star, June 25, 1933, Part 4, page 6.
- "CBS Adds Two", Broadcasting, January 15, 1932, page 6.
- "Present Practice in the Synchronous Operation of Broadcast Stations as Exemplified by WBBM and KFAB" by L. McC. Young, Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers, March 1936 (vol. 24, no. 3), page 440 (durenberger.com)
- Movie–Radio Guide. Programs for September 12–18, 1942. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
- "Controlling Interest in WBT Goes to KFAB in 3-Way Deal", Broadcasting, February 7, 1944, page 16.
- "Rehabilitation Institute Moves Ahead With Plans For Old CBS Building Site", CBS 2 Chicago. January 25, 2012. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
- "Radio Pioneer Leslie Atlass Dies in Miami", Chicago Tribune, November 19, 1960, Part 1, page 10.
- Feder, Robert (15 July 2011). "It's official: CBS to expand Newsradio brand with FM simulcast". Time Out Chicago. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
- Robert Channick (June 5, 2014). "Cubs, WBBM make radio deal official". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
- Kyle Thele (11 November 2015). "Cubs make their radio move to WSCR official". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
- Robert Channick (June 4, 2014). "WBBM to be Cubs' new radio home". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
- "WSCR-AM 670 The Score Named The Cubs' New Flagship Station". chicago.cbslocal.com. CBS Chicago. November 11, 2015. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
- Cynthia Littleton (February 2, 2017). "CBS Sets Radio Division Merger With Entercom". Variety. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
- "CBS and Entercom Are Merging Their Radio Stations (Reuters)". Fortune. February 2, 2017. Retrieved 2017-02-02.
- "Entercom Receives FCC Approval for Merger with CBS Radio" (Press release), November 9, 2017 (entercom.com)
- "Entercom Completes CBS Radio Merger" by Lance Venta, February 24, 2018 (radioinsight.com)
- Application Search Details – BP-20171011AAC, fcc.gov. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
- Feder, Robert. "Robservations: WBBM Newsradio to beam from Bloomingdale?", RobertFeder.com. October 16, 2017. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
- Feder, Robert. "Robservations: Steve Dahl to ‘lock up’ The Loop today", RobertFeder.com. March 9, 2018. Retrieved April 5, 2019.