Thirty year long rival stations 98.7 KISS FM and
WBLS (107.5) would soon be "one family, one station."
According to the Daily News—who compare the merger
with a Yankees/Mets merger—the stations began simulcasting this morning,
starting with a tribute to the 30-year legacy of KISS. Then on Monday, they
will officially become one station, with all hosts (as of now) being integrated
under the WBLS call letters, meaning KISS 98.7 FM is dead.
Former basketball great Erving “Magic” Johnson will
hold a minor stake in newly created YMF Media. YMF Media was created by two
Yucaipa funds and two Fortress funds, which owned the senior debt of now
defunct Black owned Inner City Broadcasting Corporation. The Inner City
Broadcasting Corporation ("ICBC") was an American media company based
in New York City.
Creditors of Inner City Media Corp., the holding
company for the owner of New York City’s WLIB and WBLS radio stations, filed an
involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in New York on August 19, 2011.
The creditors, including Yucaipa Cos. funds, listed
$254 million in debt in a filing today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan.
The Yucaipa Companies, LLC is a Los Angeles-based holding company, focusing on
private equity investments. The firm was founded in 1986 by its billionaire
chairman, Ronald Burkle.
The late Percy Sutton, former attorney to Malcolm X
and a former Manhattan Borough President; and Clarence Jones, former publisher
of The New York Amsterdam News, one of the oldest black-owned newspapers in the
United States, founded the company in 1970. Inner City’s failure to repay its
debt is attributed to the failure of listeners - whom are predominantly African American - to demand that
the advertisers they patronize fairly spend their advertising budgets supporting black radio, and black
hosts like Michael Baisden and Tom Joyner both of whom lost their syndicated
berths on 98.7 and 107.5 respectively ought to be more assertive in calling for
ICBC is notable for being one of the first
broadcasting companies wholly owned by African-Americans. The firm was the
second-largest broadcasting company owned by and targeting blacks, after
Lanham, Maryland-based Radio One. The “M” in YMF Media is believed to refer to
Magic Johnson, who is already Yucaipa’s partner in three Phoenix radio
The company acquired Inner City Broadcasting’s
Flagship urban radio station WBLS 107.5 FM and gospel WLIB 1190 AM through a
court sponsored fire sale. 'BLS was once the standard bearer of black radio with
legendary program director and Disc Jockey Frankie Crocker at the helm in the
early 70’s through late 80’s, when Emmis Communications’ urban response to the
station 98.7 FM came on line on August 1, 1981 rapidly eroding BLS’ dominance
in the New York market.
Inner City Media, through Inner City Broadcasting,
owned urban-formatted radio stations in New York, California, South Carolina
and Mississippi. The WRKS name is also disappearing, the two stations are
jointly holding a “celebration of the legacy of Kiss-FM” all weekend.
98.7 KISS FM was born on August 1, 1981 and was one
of the first FM radio stations to specifically speak to the African-American
community. Known for its heavy influence in the community, KISS FM was also a
pioneer in the radio industry at that time being the first radio station in
America to play Hip-hop music in regular rotation and hire club DJs as a part
of their on-air staff. Along with the emerging music, 98.7 KISS FM is the main
outlet in New York for Black community leaders and politicians to spread
positive messages on the radio.
98.7 KISS FM was a loyal and authentic voice for the
New York African-American community. KISS FM has been the home to many
influential figures and helped in launching the music careers of legends like Luther
Vandross, Mariah Carey, Run DMC, Jaheim, Alicia Keys, LL Cool J, Keith Sweat
and Janet Jackson.Over the years Kiss has often emphasized the heritage of
black music, and has hired hosts like Isaac Hayes. In the 1990s it launched a
“classic soul” format that shot it to the top of the ratings for several years.
In recent years advertising revenue, which is the
life blood of any radio station, had slumped, however. Emmis Chairman Jeff
Smulyan Thursday blamed some of that on Arbitron’s switch to a new ratings
system, the Personal People Meter (PPM).
PPM replaced the old “diary” system, where
participants wrote down their listening, with an electronic recording device.
Almost all black and ethnic stations saw a dramatic
drop in their ratings under the PPM system. A stream of protests and litigation
has led to recent agreements compelling Arbitron to increase its efforts to
reflect all listeners fairly.
Both stations serviced the influential New York City
market, and had similar formats, playing classic soul and contemporary R&B
music. Hopes are that the merger of Kiss FM and WBLS will help to strengthen
the newly merged property.