Chicago Public Media Taking Vocalo 91.1 Off Air As Budget Sinks


After 17 years, Vocalo 91.1 (WBEW) will come off the FM dial as Chicago Public Media becomes the latest public radio group to face layoffs amid financial difficulty. Starting May 1, the cuts affect 14 positions across WBEZ’s Content Development Unit.

In a message to staff, outgoing CEO Matt Moog, the Chicago Public Media Executive Leadership Team, and the Chair of the Chicago Public Media Board of Directors Robert Pasin blamed sinking sponsorship, advertising, and philanthropy alongside audience behavioral shifts toward digital content.

As such, Vocalo will transition from radio broadcasting to a digital-only model while merging its team with CPM’s Arts & Culture division. The station, branded as Chicago’s Urban Alternative, is the city’s sole NPR music station, playing Hip-Hop, Rap, and Dance. It was the subject of a Corporation for Public Broadcasting study in 2016 to see if the format could be expanded to other public radio markets.

CPM’s Content Development Unit will pivot towards focusing on daily local news podcasts like Reset and the Rundown, phasing out non-newsroom podcast productions.

Cuts will also hit the Chicago Sun-Times, which CPM acquired in 2022, and the WBEZ fellowship program in fiscal year 2025.

Matt Moog announced his departure from the CEO role in December, pending the selection of a successor. That search is currently underway. WBEZ reporter and union leader Mariah Woelfel took to social media to say, “It is particularly upsetting that the decision to cut WBEZ’s entire podcast unit and gut the team behind Vocalo is being made as a search for a new CEO is underway. Monumental decisions like this should not be made when leadership is in flux.”

In its statement, Chicago Public Media said, “These are painful decisions that affect our valued colleagues. We are working diligently to minimize the negative impact on each individual and provide them with financial and transitional support. We are so grateful for their many contributions over the years.”

Chicago Public Media is joining other public radio outlets facing the same grim financial fight, including buyout programs at Boston’s WBUR and Los Angeles’ KCRW. Washington DC’s WAMU, New York Public Radio, and Sacramento’s CapRadio have also been affected by layoffs.


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