Newark Public Radio, WBGO Jazz88.3FM was the brainchild of an urban think tank whose members came together in Newark in the 1970s to affect change after the riots of 1967. Marshalling an extraordinary group of city activists, and with the help of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, they established the first public radio station in New Jersey in 1979 by convincing the Newark Public School System board to transfer its underutilized broadcast license to them.
WBGO was born as an independent, community-based, not-for-profit, public radio station that would champion jazz-an American art form that is also an important chapter in Newark's cultural history. Jazz88 affiliated with National Public Radio (NPR) and went to a 24-hour broadcast day in 1980 when the only other full-time jazz station in the New York Metro market, WRVR (a commercial station), changed its format to country-western music.
Today, WBGO's broadcast signal is heard by listeners on the air, on the Internet and through mobile applications. Fans from around the globe tune in for jazz, blues, R&B shows on the weekend, and award-winning news. Jazz88 has won the "Keeping the Blues Alive" Award and twice won the Gavin Report's "Jazz Station of the Year" Award. WBGO is the third most listened to public radio station in the tri-state area. The New Jersey State Council on the Arts has named us a Major Impact Arts Organization for over 16 consecutive years. The designation of arts organization reflects WBGO's mission which extends beyond the radio station to important programs and activities that preserve, promote and present jazz.
In 1985, WBGO became a producer of syndicated programming for the nation's radio stations, and has a significant history of success with the weekly JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater currently carried by over 130 stations nationwide, the annual New Year's Eve broadcast, Toast of the Nation on NPR carried by more than 150 stations, and Portraits in Blue with Bob Porter carried by 18 stations.
Jazz88's involvement in producing concerts has been strong since 1981 when the station began hosting free jazz concerts in Military Park, bringing life to downtown Newark. The same park is now a city jewel ringed by the Newark Museum, galleries, the renovated WBGO studios and the elegant New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC). Today, WBGO produces or is a sponsor for more than 100 concerts a year and does live broadcasts of another 25.
Jazz 88's dedication to preserving the uniquely American art form of jazz for future generations has spawned a Children's Jazz Series, now in its eleventh year. The series offers eight free concerts that are presented annually by top-name musicians who develop their programs specifically for young people, some of whom are members of NJPAC and WBGO's Jazz for Teens educational program.
Jazz88.3FM's daily broadcast can be easily identified by the passionate, extremely knowledgeable and idiosyncratic on-air announcers, frequent live broadcasts and on-air interviews with today's hottest jazz and blues artists, and a news department whose drive time news reports and weekly magazine program, the WBGO Journal, are recognized for their reporting excellence every year.
WBGO's studios are located at 54 Park Place in the heart of downtown Newark, New Jersey and the transmitter is nearby atop the tallest building in Newark. The WBGO broadcast signal reaches north to Rockland and Westchester Counties, NY and parts of Connecticut; south to Ocean County, NJ; east to Nassau County, NY and west to Morris County, NJ. The signal can be heard in all five boroughs of New York City and most of the 21 counties in New Jersey. In addition, WBGO can be heard on the nine New Jersey stations of the New Jersey Network, weekdays from midnight to 5 a.m. and weekends from midnight to 6 a.m.
Since 1996, Jazz88 has streamed its signal over the Internet on wbgo.org and programming is also available through mobile applications. Jazz 88 has become a true oasis to thousands of listeners (many of whom have become donating members, outside of the station's listening area). Members from as far away as Malaysia, Turkey, Germany, Japan, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Taiwan, Brazil, Great Britain and most of the 50 states of the union echo a listener from South Africa's e-mail to us, "You are so inspiring."
There is more than 52 full and part-time staff at the station. Operating as a 501(c)3 organization. WBGO is funded by more than 17,000 members each year, and by a combination of corporate, business, foundation, and governmental grants. Newark Public Radio is governed by a nineteen person Board of Trustees.