The reign of one of the nation’s best-known R&B radio stations, New York City’s WRKS, 98.7 KISS FM, is over. It will merge with longtime rival 107.5 WBLS, station management revealed.
KISS FM owner Emmis Communications is selling the intellectual property associated with KISS FM to YMF Media -- now in the process of buying WBLS from Inner City Broadcasting -- and converting the KISS FM station to an all-sports format under the new call sign WEPN-AM, ESPN New York, as part of a local programming and marketing agreement with the sports broadcaster.
In an announcement on the WBLS Web site, WBLS vice president and general manager Deon Levingston stated: “WBLS and WRKS have been the voice of the tri-state Black community for 30 years, and we plan to merge the best of both stations to create a stronger voice to deliver the best in R&B music while also super-serving our community.”
Emmis chairman and CEO Jeff Smulyan explained: “Recent changes in the way radio ratings are measured made it very difficult for us to find success with KISS FM despite the great work of our Emmis New York team.”
The “merger” is being announced to the public with a weekend-long tribute to KISS FM commemorating its 30 years on the air. Next week, two well-known KISS FM personalities, midday host Shaila and evening host Lenny Green, will begin appearing in the WBLS lineup, with Shaila in the 10 a.m.-3 p.m. spot and Green in the 7 p.m.-midnight spot. However, it’s not clear whether other KISS FM hosts are coming on board at WBLS.
While both stations are trying to put a positive spin on the merger, most of the buzz about the demise of KISS FM is negative. A number of African-American bloggers who follow the radio business have portrayed the end of the iconic R&B station as another step in what they describe as the decline of black radio, resulting from excessive commercialization and consolidation, bland and homogenous music formats, and the deleterious effect of the new ratings produced under the Arbitron PPM measurement regime.