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WVBR-FM logo.png
City of license Ithaca, New York
Broadcast area Finger Lakes Region, New York
Slogan "Real Rock Radio"
Frequency 93.5 MHz
Repeaters 105.5 MHz
First air date 1958[1]
Format Rock (weekdays)
Talk/Variety (weekends)
ERP 3,000 watts
HAAT 76.0 meters (249 feet)
Class A
Facility ID 13909
Transmitter coordinates 42°25′42.00″N 76°26′57.00″W / 42.42833°N 76.44917°W / 42.42833; -76.44917
Callsign meaning Voice of the Big Red (Cornell)[2]
Owner Cornell Radio Guild, Inc.
Webcast Listen Live

WVBR-FM (93.5 FM) is a radio station that broadcasts to Ithaca, New York, and surrounding areas. It operates at 3 kilowatts from a transmitter on Hungerford Hill, in Ithaca. A translator on 105.5 FM provides a cleaner signal to certain areas of Ithaca. WVBR's current studios are located on Ithaca's East Hill.



In addition to the main station, WVBR-FM is relayed by an additional translator to widen its broadcast area.

Callsign MHz City of license Power
Additional Information
W288AS 105.5 Ithaca, New York 7 D FCC


WVBR is a commercial radio station, but is unusual because it is operated and managed by Cornell University students. WVBR is completely independent of the university: it supports itself by selling advertising, and receives no funding from the university. Student staff members are, for the most part, unpaid (some earn commissions on time sales or are paid a stipend to help operate the station during the summer and other times when Cornell classes are not in session). The station is owned by the Cornell Radio Guild, a nonprofit organization composed entirely of students who work at the station. It acts as a training ground for students interested in broadcasting, as well as a serious commercial competitor in the Ithaca radio market.

WVBR is very involved in the Ithaca and Tompkins County community. The station features a "Community Calendar" segment twice daily, where non-profit organizations can send bulletins of their events to be read over the air during the morning and afternoon. WVBR also does remote broadcasts from a variety of locations in Ithaca, including from the Ithaca Farmer's Market and from local businesses around town, and it sponsors or helps to sponsor local charitable and cultural events.[3]


WVBR's history goes back to 1935 when the Cornell Radio Guild was formed (incorporated in 1941), as a Cornell student organization that produced radio programs that aired on WESG, the forerunner of WHCU, in Ithaca. In the early 1940s, the Guild started a network of its own low power AM "carrier-current" transmitters in the dormitories.

The FCC-licensed FM station first went on the air in June 1958, though the WVBR call letters had already been in use for years on the Guild's AM "carrier-current" broadcasts, which could be received only on campus.[4] The call letters originally stood for "Voice of the Big Red", referring to the Cornell Big Red athletic teams. But the station de-emphasized that connection over the years as it carved out an identity independent of the university, and as the university's sports broadcasts were generally carried by WHCU, a commercial station that Cornell owned for many years.

In its early years, WVBR-FM's musical programming was mainly classical whereas the AM side carried popular music. WVBR-FM switched to rock and popular music in 1968 in a format change billed and promoted as "The FM Revolution." The station greatly expanded its audience, especially off campus, initially with a sound that blended hit music, progressive album cuts, and a sound that anticipated in many respects both album rock and adult contemporary radio formats of subsequent years. By the early to mid-1970s its format had evolved to progressive rock radio, similar to pioneering rock stations like WNEW-FM in New York, WMMS in Cleveland, KSAN-FM in San Francisco, and nearby WCMF in Rochester. In later years the station's format evolved toward more tightly controlled, hit-oriented playlists, mirroring the larger trend in FM radio programming influenced by national programmers like Lee Abrams and Kent Burkhart. It also became heavily involved in live music, promoting its own series of concerts at local venues like the Strand Theater, many of which were broadcast live.

The station's commercial success peaked in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was adversely affected in the later 1980s and 1990s by several factors including: changes to the economy; New York State raising its drinking age to 21, a blow to the radio station's nightclub and bar advertisers; several new stations brought into the Ithaca market via translators and cable; and after deregulation of the radio industry resulted in most of its local competitors being taken over by a single chain owner.

A 1980s format change to contemporary hit radio, led by then-program director and air personality (and current Z-100 New York programmer and Clear Channel Radio senior VP) Tom Poleman, was initially successful. But after Poleman and other key personnel graduated from Cornell in the mid-1980s, the new format eventually faded in audience appeal, especially with WVBR's traditional 18-34 core. The station then moved back toward album-oriented rock, regaining much of its old core audience in the process. Structural problems with the station's long-time Collegetown district studio building, which forced it to relocate its studios and offices in 2000, also proved to be both a financial and administrative burden for a time. The station's business picture has improved more recently, thanks to its strong showing in both 12+ and 18-49 audience measurements over the last few years in Arbitron's regular rating surveys of the competitive (13 station) Ithaca radio market, and to the introduction of popular new youth-oriented VBR After Dark programming on weekday evenings.

Weekday programming

The station's playlist during the week consists of a variety of rock music. During the day, the format is a mix of classic rock, modern rock, mainstream rock, and active rock. At night, WVBR features VBR After Dark, which features programming geared more towards college students. There is more of a focus on alternative rock and modern rock, but classic rock songs are played as well. VBR After Dark also features college-related giveaways and promotions.

Currently, WVBR features Jeff Mix on mornings and Peter Knight on mid-days every weekday. The station's afternoons and evenings feature a different DJ every day and night. All or most are students at Cornell University, although a few hail from other colleges around the area. The station also provides news and sports reports in the morning at every half-hour from 7:00 to 8:30 a.m., and also hourly in the afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.


Regular Weekday Features

There are several staples of WVBR's normal programming. Tompkins County Trivia airs every weekday after the 8:00 a.m. newscast. In this segment, the DJ asks a trivia question on a topic local interest, with the first caller to correctly identify the answer winning a prize.[5] Other regularly occurring daily weekday segments include Today in Rock History and The WVBR Concert Log.[6] Meanwhile, The Soapbox is a news opinion piece presented weeknights by a member of Cornell or Tompkins County media, such as The Cornell Review.[7] The 93-Second Sports Shot, an opinion piece covering sports, airs weekdays during the 6 p.m. newscast.

Weekend programming

The station features a number of specialty programs on weekends, some focused on specific genres of rock music or its roots, and others on public affairs or sports.

The best known of the station's weekend programs is Bound For Glory, a long-running folk music showcase with a national reputation[8]. Broadcast every Sunday night for more than 40 years, the program is the longest-running live folk music broadcast in North America[9]; it features a mix of recordings and (most weeks) live performances from a coffeehouse on the Cornell campus. Phil Shapiro has been the program's host since its inception in 1967.

Other long-running specialty programs on the station include "The Salt Creek Show" (country music) and "Rockin' Remnants" (oldies); both have been running since the mid 1960's, though with a succession of hosts and with occasional changes in time slot.

Prominent alumni

Over the years, a large number of WVBR student staff members have gone on to significant careers in broadcasting, journalism and related fields. Among the best known is Keith Olbermann, host of the MSNBC program "Countdown with Keith Olbermann," who worked at WVBR from 1975 to 1979 and who has often cited in interviews[10] the formative role his experiences at the station played in his career.

Other notable alumni include sports journalist Bill Pidto[11], Good Morning America anchor Kate Snow[12], former SportsCenter anchor Whit Watson and Dr. Joyce Brothers.[13]


External links


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