By Gavin Rodger | Reporter
There was a time when Waco was the largest market in the United States without an National Public Radio (NPR) station, until 17 years ago when KWBU was established in Waco, on channel on 103.3 FM, to serve many of Waco’s nearby suburbs, according to KWBU.org.
NPR is an American privately and publicly funded nonprofit membership media organization that serves as a national syndicator to a network of 900 public radio stations in the United States.
“There was a group in Waco who would drive up to Dallas to pick up an NPR station. There was a real call for us to get NPR here in Waco,” said Joe Riley, president and CEO of the Brazos Valley Public Broadcasting Foundation.
Robert Darden, professor in the department of journalism, public relations and new media, was a major driving force in getting NPR to Waco and expressed the frustration he felt at the time of not having one.
“My wife, Dr. Mary Darden, and I had known for some time that Waco did not have an NPR station, and it was very frustrating. Any time we left town, that’s what we would put on,” Darden said.
The NPR affiliate originally aired from Castellaw Communications Building but moved to its location on River Street in 2010. KWBU-FM covers news on a local, state and national scale and hosts a variety of shows daily.
“We considered any possible way to get it done. I wasn’t teaching at Baylor at the time, and we soon realized that we weren’t going to get our own station and that someone would have to step up,” Darden said. Darden said when Baylor hired a new Public Relations head just prior to 2000, he expressed his desire for a NPR station, and it was agreed that this would be a focus.
Riley says the station offers entertainment at all times of the day.
“We’re fairly typical of NPR stations. We carry anchor programs. We have NPR news from 4 a.m. and goes until 9 a.m. every morning, and again from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the evening,” Riley said.
KWBU-FM has seen a steady listener-ship climb because of the variety that the station provides daily, according to KWBU.org.
“We play classical music in mornings. In fact, KWBU-FM is the only classical music source in Waco,” Riley said. “In middle of the day, we have Texas news. We have a show called Texas Standard at noon on weekdays, and we still air news on weekends. We have weekend edition morning news.”
KWBU’s weekend show, “Wait wait… Don’t Tell Me!” a Peabody Award-winning show, uses current news stories for questions and comedy. Riley says the weekend news quiz show is their most popular hour and is fun to listen to. The show’s host, Peter Sagal, serves up questions in all forms from lightning rounds, tape from NPR news shows, multiple choice, identify the “fake” stories, and fill-in-the-blank limericks.
KWBU-FM’s increase in listenership is a result of the demand for NPR services in the community, Riley said.
“We provide the only NPR service you can get here. We’ve watched our listening-ship climb nearly 60 percent in the last two years. We have about 16,000 people who listen to us regularly each week,” Riley said.
One may notice that the last two letters of Waco’s NPR station are recognizable. That is because those last two letters stand for “Baylor University.” KWBU-FM is owned by Baylor University; however, the station is not a department of Baylor and is run by the Brazos Valley Public Broadcasting Foundation.
“Baylor University is a very important part of our source of our support, as half of our budget comes from Baylor, but we are not a department of Baylor. We have our own board, and half of them are Baylor employees and half of them are from Waco community,” Riley said.
To find out more about KWBU-FM, visit kwbu.org.