WBFO Milestones


1950s     1960s     1970s     1980s     1990s     2000s



1959
WBFO-88.7FM signs on the air on January 6 as a 100-watt student radio station licensed to SUNY and operated by the School of Engineering. Investor Wilson Greatbatch is among those responsible for laying the groundwork for WBFO. The station broadcasts from 6-9PM weeknights on a budget of $1,300.

1962 - 70
With Bill Siemering as general manager, WBFO is predominantly a student operation, although efforts are increasingly made to hire professional staff and provide community service. Local public and cultural affairs programs become the blueprint for All Things Considered, later created under Siemering's leadership as NPR program director.

1970 - 79
During this period of growth and professionalization, WBFO becomes a charter member of National Public Radio (NPR) and is certified by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) for federal funding. All Things Considered, NPR's flagship radio news magazine, debuts in 1971, and Morning Edition, ATC's morning counterpart, debuts in 1979.

1972 - 74
Terry Gross and Ira Flatow, who later were to become NPR celebrities, begin their radio careers at WBFO. Terry hosts a daily three-hour live interview program, This is Radio, which evolves several years later into Fresh Air, broadcast on many NPR stations. Flatow, who will become host of NPR's Science Friday, serves as WBFO's news director during this period.

1979

Jazz programming expands to 74 hours a week under the leadership of the late John Hunt, WBFO's music director. WBFO becomes a national leader in recording and distributing live jazz sessions through NPR.

1982
The Sound of Swing, a weekly production hosted by Bob Rossberg, beings national syndication.

1985
WBFO expands its coverage area by increasing power from 770 watts to 20,000 watts.

1991
The 20th anniversary of All Things Considered is celebrated in Buffalo at a WBFO members' event featuring Susan Stamberg, Noah Adams and Bill Siemering.

1993
Federally funded WOLN 91.3 FM, Olean, signs on the air on March 17 as WBFO's first repeater station.

1994
WBFO's second repeater station in the Southern Tier, WUBJ 88.1 FM in Jamestown, signs on the air on July 11. The Sheldon, Gebbie, Hultquist and Carnahan-Jackson Foundations support construction of the facility.

The station wins a special Buffalo Common Council Award for Local Music Programming, stating "WBFO has set a great example of how local music can be integrated in a jazz format."

1995
WBFO ties for first place as Best Radio Station in Buffalo. "The spirit and content of public radio is a breath of fresh air in this market," writes The Buffalo News media critic, Anthony Violanti.

1996
Don and Esther Davis establish an endowment for WBFO through the Don Davis Autoworld Fund.

1996
The Council for Advancement and Support of Education presents a Gold Award to WBFO for its series, The Bar Exam.

1998
WBFO extends the range of its signal by increasing power to 50,000 watts. A new audience, now including many Canadian listeners, discovers NPR News & Jazz.

The Buffalo and Erie County Arts Council presents the station with the award for Best Media Supporter of the Arts.

1999
WBFO celebrates its 40th anniversary!

The WBFO news team wins numerous state and national awards, including a first place national public radio award for a special program on manic depression.

The Buffalo News commits $50,000 over a five year period to WBFO's Local Program Fund, enabling the station to add a third producer to its news team.

2000
The WBFO news team wins five NY Associated Press awards for local news reports and is named "Best Radio Station in Buffalo" for the second year in a row in a reader poll taken by Artvoice. "In a world always looking for 'the next big thing,' public radio is a constant, classic source of reliable information and eclectic entertainment."

WBFO undertakes a signal expansion project in Chautauqua County, supported by grants totaling $151,600 from five foundations.

The UB Distinguished Alumni award is presented to Ira Flatow, former WBFO news director.

WBFO begins web streaming on wbfo.org.

2001
William Siemering—former WBFO general manager, NPR cofounder and creator of All Things Considered—is awarded a doctorate in humane letters from SUNY.

WBFO has experienced significant audience growth, from an estimated 21,000 listeners in 1985 to 94,000 in 2000, placing the station 11th in a ranking of 31 radio stations in WNY (Arbitron).

Membership support has more than doubled since 1994, from $200,000 to $494,000.

WBFO increases the power of its Jamestown repeater station at 88.1 FM, now providing a strong signal throughout Chautauqua County, including Fredonia.

2007
WBFO starts broadcasting its HD-2 station on March 21st.

In June 2007, The WBFO News Department was honored with the 2006 Stephen Flanders Award, as the top radio news team in New York State. A total of 10 awards were given to the department including five-first place awards in various categories.

In August 2007, WBFO received a $160,000 grant from the New York State Music Fund in support of its new all-music HD2 radio station - WBFO On the Border and the WBFO Buffalo Music Project.

In October 2007, WBFO began airing two new programs, Wednesday Night Free Concert series - live broadcasts of professional local musicians and a weekly magazine program called Buffalo Avenues which focuses on music events in all of Western New York and Southern Ontario.

2008
A new WBFO tower was constructed. The tower provides full service to more than 50K new listeners and greatly strengthens the signal delivered to our current service area of 1.15M in WNY, Southern Tier and Southern Ontario.

In July and August of 2008, WBFO hosted StoryCorps, America's largest oral history project, which brings a mobile recording studio to cities all over American, records personal stories, airs select stories on National Public Radio, and stores all stories in the Library of Congress. The Buffalo stories will be aired twice weekly on WBFO.  A new weekly magazine program called Buffalo Avenues launches, focused on music events in all of Western New York and Southern Ontario.

2009
WBFO celebrated its 50th anniversary!  WBFO Staff, Advisory Board, and University administration engage in Strategic Planning process to discuss station's future.  Manager Carole Petro moved to a new assignment at UB after 7 years with station.  Public radio veteran Mark Vogelzang named as Interim GM in November.
 

2010
On February 1, WBFO made major program changes to the mid-day schedule, adding more news and talk programs between 10am-2pm and dropping jazz.  The station promotes itself on-air as "Your NPR Station", with a focus on journalism and a core NPR lineup.  "On the Border" series of eclectic music in evening ends as well as Wednesday night Live Concerts from Allen Hall when funding concludes.  Jazz continues overnight.  Weekend blues with hosts Jim Santella and Anita West airs from noon-5pm on Sat/Sun.

In March, the station completed the most successful on-air fundraising drive in the station's 51-year history; raising over $230,000 in listener support. Facebook "friends" total over 2,000.

In April 2010, NPR's Dina Temple-Raston, counterterrorism correspondent visited WBFO with donor events and on-air call-in.

In October, repeater station WOLN 91.3fm, Olean, NY completed a signal upgrade from 100 watts to 1,000 watts with installation of new 2-bay antenna and solid-state transmitter at Backyard Broadcasting tower site south of Olean.

In late 2009 and through 2010, the University convened a study group to talk with Buffalo's other public station, WNED about possible collaboration and cooperation with WBFO.

Sept. 15, 2010 Public Statement by WBFO & WNED

The University at Buffalo and the Western New York Public Broadcasting Association (WNYPBA) are the public radio licensees in the Buffalo, NY market.  UB holds the license for WBFO-FM 88.7 and WNYPBA holds the license for WNED-FM 94.5 and WNED-AM 970.The stations reach large portions of Western New York and Southern Ontario. In addition, both FM stations have repeaters in the southwestern portion of the state, near the cities of Jamestown and Olean.

Over the last several months, management and board members from WNED and WBFO have been exploring potential ways to strengthen public radio in Buffalo. The talks have been cordial and collaborative, and they are ongoing.  Topics of the discussions include:

  • How can we provide better service to the listener and viewer?
  • How can we make better use of limited resources, provided by donors and taxpayers?

These are important questions for public broadcasting in Western New York and Southern Ontario. UB and WNYPBA are committed to exploring them thoroughly. We intend to conclude our conversations by the end of the calendar year. UB is committed to remaining the license-holder for WBFO and its repeater stations.  Both organizations are committed to continuing to provide the community with the vital NPR news and information programs, such as Morning Edition and All Things Considered, that so many of our listeners care about.  We will provide additional details after our talks are concluded.


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