City Boston, Massachusetts
Broadcast area Greater Boston
Branding "90.9 WBUR"
Slogan "Boston's NPR News Station"
Frequency 90.9 MHz(also on HD Radio)
Repeater(s) (see table)
First air date March 1, 1950[1]
Format News/Talk
ERP 12,000 watts
HAAT 305 metres (1,001 feet)
Class B
Facility ID 68241
Transmitter coordinates 42°18′27.00″N 71°13′27.00″W / 42.3075000°N 71.2241667°W / 42.3075000; -71.2241667 (WBUR-FM)
Callsign meaning Boston University Radio
Former callsigns WBUR (1950–1997)
Affiliations NPR
Public Radio International
Owner Boston University
(The Trustees of Boston University)
Webcast Listen Live PLS MP3 Ogg Vorbis
Website wbur.org

WBUR-FM (90.9 FM) is a public radio station located in Boston, Massachusetts, owned by Boston University. WBUR is the largest[2] of three NPR member stations in Boston, along with WGBH and WUMB-FM. WBUR produces several nationally distributed programs, including Car Talk, On Point, Only A Game, Here and Now and Open Source, and previously produced The Connection (which was canceled on August 5, 2005). RadioBoston, launched in 2007, is WBUR's only purely local show. WBUR's positioning statement is "Boston's NPR News Station."

WBUR also carries its programming on two other stations serving Cape Cod and the Islands: WBUH (89.1 FM) in Brewster,[3] and WBUA (92.7 FM) in Tisbury. The latter station, located on Martha's Vineyard, uses the frequency formerly occupied by WMVY.[4][5][6] In 1998, WBUR helped launch WRNI in Providence, Rhode Island—the first NPR station within Rhode Island's borders. It has since sold the station to a local group.


The WBUR-FM information booth at the 2015 Boston Book Festival.
The WBUR-FM information booth at the 2015 Boston Book Festival.

WBUR programs On Point, Only A Game and Here and Now are carried nationwide in the US on hundreds of public radio stations and on XM Radio's public radio station, XM Public Radio. In total, WBUR produces more than 25 hours of news and programming each week.

On Point is two-hour discussion show hosted by Tom Ashbrook, broadcast weekdays, with two hourly segments devoted to separate topics. Often one hour-long block will focus on a political issue and the other will focus on arts and culture. On Point began as 'special programming' in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, originally airing from 7 pm to 9 pm. It took over the time slot of the similar The Connection when that show was canceled in 2005.

Here and Now is a news and culture digest show hosted by Jeremy Hobson and Robin Young, normally consisting of several interview segments with reporters, authors, artists and statesmen. It began as a regional and local show, but soon expanded to cover national and international issues. The show is syndicated nationally by more than 400 other NPR member stations.

Open Source is a weekly show hosted by Christopher Lydon, former New York Times journalist and original host of The Connection. The show focuses on the arts, literature, and foreign affairs.

In 2007, WBUR launched Radio Boston, a weekly radio show featuring longtime Boston journalist David Boeri. The show was later hosted by Jane Clayson Johnson as a one-hour discussion and interview, though Boeri still introduced each show with a report from the field. In 2010, Radio Boston expanded to broadcast Monday through Friday. In the fall of 2010, new host Meghna Chakrabarti went on maternity leave and was temporarily replaced by WBUR reporter Sacha Pfeiffer. Chakrabarti has returned, and is currently co-hosting the show with Anthony Brooks.

Only A Game is a weekly sports program broadcast twice on Saturdays. The show is hosted by Bill Littlefield and is syndicated to about 210 affiliate stations by National Public Radio. The wide-ranging program describes itself as "irreverent" and often covers sports from a human interest angle, rather than appealing directly to a particular fan base.

On Sunday evenings, WBUR-FM also broadcasts a show entitled Boston University's World of Ideas. The show features academics and intellectuals presenting lectures and answering questions on issues of national or global importance.

The 3-minute comedy sketch series 11 Central Ave, broadcast on WBEZ in Chicago, was for a time recorded at WBUR.[7]


WBUR first went on the air March 1, 1950. Initially, most of WBUR's staff were Boston University students, and the station broadcast a number of BU sporting events. By the 1970s, WBUR began receiving funding from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting and became a "public radio station" with a professional staff.[1] BU students continued programming on a low-power AM transmitter serving the BU campus. The WBUR studios remain on the BU campus on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the station had several jazz music and classical music programs. The disc jockeys demonstrated a broad knowledge of composers, performers, and the execution of jazz, demonstrating familiarity with such matters as improvisation and shared this with listeners.[1]'[8] Noteworthy jazz and classical disc jockeys included Dennis Boyer (classical: FM in the PM), Steve Elman (jazz: Spaces), Tony Cennamo (jazz: New Morning and subsequently, a night-time show), James Isaacs (jazz), and Jose Masso (Latin: Con Salsa).

At the end of the 1980s, WBUR began replacing many of its music programs with news and information programming from NPR, Public Radio International and the BBC. This brought WBUR into head-on competition with another major Boston-area NPR station, WGBH. WGBH eventually decided to retain a mostly music (classical music daytime/jazz nights) and cultural programming format (WBUR's former territory), although WGBH did broadcast NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

By the early 1990s, with the exception of Con Salsa on Saturday nights, WBUR had adopted an around-the-clock news and information format. Numerous NPR member stations have since followed WBUR's lead and eliminated music programming in favor of news and information programming (including rival WGBH, which transferred classical music programming to WCRB following its acquisition in 2009, though it continued to program jazz at night until July 2012; since then, WGBH has only aired a few hours of jazz on weekends). By 2009, the majority of NPR member stations were programming 24/7 news and information formats.

Cape Cod

During the 1990s, WBUR began expanding onto Cape Cod. In 1992, it partnered with Cape Cod Regional Technical High School to air WBUR programming over its WCCT-FM when students were not on the air. The following year, WBUR reached similar arrangements with WSDH (91.5 FM) at Sandwich High School and WKKL (90.7 FM) at Cape Cod Community College. In 1997, auto dealer Ernie Boch, Sr. donated WUOK (1240 AM) in West Yarmouth, which had been simulcasting WXTK, to Boston University, which changed its call letters to WBUR and made it a full-time satellite of WBUR-FM (which added the "-FM" suffix to accommodate the West Yarmouth station). (The 1240 AM signal is older than the Boston flagship station, having signed on as WOCB in 1940.) WBUR programming was then dropped from WKKL in 1999, as the 1240 AM signal can be heard in much of WKKL's coverage area.[1]

On November 27, 2012, WBUR announced that it would acquire WMVY (92.7 FM) in Tisbury (on Martha's Vineyard) to serve as an additional satellite,[9] under the call letters of WBUA.[6] The transaction was completed on February 8, 2013; at midnight that night, WBUA began to carry the WBUR schedule.[10] WMVY's adult album alternative programming continues through an online stream run by a nonprofit not associated with WBUR.[10][11] The acquisition of WBUA rendered the 1240 AM facility redundant; on August 5, 2013, BU announced that it would be sold to Alex Langer, who will program it with Portuguese-language programming similar to that of another Langer station, WSRO.[12][13] The call letters of 1240 AM were changed to WBAS on February 1, 2014,[14] two days after BU and Langer agreed to a time brokerage agreement.[15] Soon afterward, WSDH also dropped WBUR's programming. WBUR added another Cape Cod satellite on May 23, 2014 with the sign-on of WBUH in Brewster; this station broadcasts at a higher power than other noncommercial stations on Cape Cod, allowing it to serve the majority of the region (the exception is the Falmouth area, which is within WBUA's coverage area). BU had sought to build a station on Cape Cod since 2004 and applied for the 89.1 facility in Brewster in 2007, but in March 2011 the Federal Communications Commission issued the construction permit to Home Improvement Ministries, who subsequently sold the permit to BU.[3]

Rhode Island

In 1998, WBUR helped to found Rhode Island's NPR station WRNI. At the time Rhode Island was one of two states lacking an NPR station. WBUR decided to partner with the newly formed Foundation for Ocean State Public Radio to build a state-of-the-art facility at historic Union Station in downtown Providence. Initially, WBUR invested heavily in WRNI's local programming, but several of these programs were soon canceled. In 2004, WBUR announced suddenly that it planned to drop WRNI by selling it, raising a number of questions. Rhode Islanders were angry at the thought that they would be forced to buy a station they had invested greatly in creating. It was later revealed that the WBUR management believed WRNI was a financial drain and wished to get rid of it. The resulting management turmoil caused the departure of longtime WBUR station manager Jane Christo. WRNI has since moved towards independence and is now mostly autonomous, although it still carries a great deal of WBUR programming.

Pro-Israel boycott

Between 2001 and June 2002, WBUR estimated that it lost between $1–2 million[16] due to the loss of at least six underwriters and a number of small donors[17] due to a boycott launched by Jewish groups who charged that NPR coverage of the Middle East was biased against Israel.[18] Boston is a major center for the American Jewish community and this made Israel a particularly sensitive subject. The boycott started in October 2001, when two Boston-area businesses ended contracts: WordsWorth Books (now defunct) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Cognex Corp. in nearby Natick, Massachusetts. The two businesses were reportedly tied with the advocacy group Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), a persistent critic of NPR's coverage for almost a decade.[19] CAMERA has demonstrated outside National Public Radio (NPR) stations in 33 cities in the United States.

The CAMERA boycott also extended to the New York Times and Washington Post. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting and explicitly pro-Palestinian organizations have made contradictory accusations of a pro-Israel bias in NPR's coverage or imbalance in particular stories. NPR's ombudsman and an independent reviewer appointed by the agency found "lack of completeness but strong factual accuracy and no systematic bias" in reporting on the controversial issue.[20]



Station Frequency City First air date Power ERP HAAT Class Facility ID Coordinates Call Sign Meaning Former Call Signs Owner
WBUH 89.1 MHz Brewster May 23, 2014[3] 42,000 watts 55 m (180 ft) B 173933 41°52′1.1″N 69°58′53.9″W / 41.866972°N 69.981639°W / 41.866972; -69.981639 (WBUH) derived from parent station WBUR-FM Boston University
WBUA 92.7 MHz Tisbury June 1, 1981[21] 3,000 watts 96 m (315 ft) A 7055 41°26′12″N 70°36′38″W / 41.43667°N 70.61056°W / 41.43667; -70.61056 (WBUA) derived from parent station WBUR-FM WMVY (1981–2013) Boston University


Station Frequency City First air date Power ERP HAAT Class Facility ID Coordinates Call Sign Meaning Former Call Signs Owner
WBAS 1240 kHz West Yarmouth October 2, 1940
(current license dates to May 6, 1944)[22]
1,000 watts C 6251 41°38′7.0″N 70°14′6.0″W / 41.635278°N 70.235000°W / 41.635278; -70.235000 (WBAS) WOCB (1940–1991)
WUOK (1991–1997)
WBUR (1997–2014)
Langer Broadcasting Group,[23] owner of WSRO. Transitioned to Portuguese language programming in December, 2014.[24]
WCCT-FM 90.3 MHz Harwich 1989 160 watts horizontal
640 watts vertical
38 m (125 ft) A 8574 41°42′40″N 70°4′34″W / 41.71111°N 70.07611°W / 41.71111; -70.07611 (WCCT-FM) Cape Cod Regional Technical High School Cape Cod Regional Technical High School

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 "The Boston Radio Dial: WBUR-FM". The Archives @ BostonRadio.org. Retrieved January 15, 2012.
  2. "Performance of Public Radio News Stations" (PDF). Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 Lantz, Brian (May 23, 2014). "WBUR debuts on new Cape frequency". Cape Cod Times. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  4. "WBUR Buys Martha’s Vineyard Station 92.7-FM", WBUR website
  5. Wells, Julia. "Radio Station WMVY Will be Sold to WBUR". Vineyard Gazette. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  6. 1 2 "Call Sign Changes" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  7. http://www.11centralave.org/bios.html#gh
  8. Scott Fybush. "New England RadioWatch: January 18, 1997". The Archives @ BostonRadio.org. Retrieved January 15, 2012.
  9. Myrick, Steve (November 27, 2012). "WMVY sold to Boston station WBUR, will cease local programming". The Martha's Vineyard Times. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  10. 1 2 "WBUR will begin broadcasting on 92.7 FM at midnight Friday". The Martha's Vineyard Times. February 6, 2013. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  11. "After WBUR Purchase, Martha’s Vineyard Station WMVY May Move Online", WBUR website
  12. Venta, Lance (August 5, 2013). "Boston University Sells Cape Cod Signal". RadioInsight. Retrieved August 6, 2013.
  13. Reidy, Chris (August 5, 2013). "Langer Broadcasting to buy 1240 AM signal in West Yarmouth from WBUR". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 6, 2013.
  14. "Call Sign History (WBAS)". CDBS Public Access. Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved February 3, 2014.
  15. "Time Brokerage Agreement" (PDF). WBAS sale application. Federal Communications Commission. January 30, 2014. Retrieved February 3, 2014.
  16. "NPR's pro-Israel critics punish WBUR". 2002-06-03. Retrieved 2015-07-25.
  17. Sharon Samber (2002-06-14). "NPR reacts to charges of anti-Israel bias in coverage". Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
  18. Glenn Frankel (July 16, 2006). "A Beautiful Friendship?". Washington Post. Retrieved May 7, 2012.
  19. "NPR's pro-Israel critics punish WBUR". Current.org. June 3, 2006. Retrieved May 6, 2012.
  20. http://www.npr.org/sections/ombudsman/2014/01/19/263470385/fairness-in-covering-israel-and-the-palestinians-the-end-of-an-accounting
  21. Broadcasting & Cable Yearbook 1999 (PDF). 1999. pp. D–213–4. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  22. Halper, Donna; Wollman, Garrett. "The Eastern Massachusetts Radio Timeline: the 1940s". The Archives @ BostonRadio.org. Retrieved January 15, 2012.
  23. "AM Query Results". Retrieved 2015-07-18.
  24. http://redeabr.com/radios-1240-am-e-1410-am-inauguram-grade-de-programacao/
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