Black New Yorkers who started their day with Tom Joyner and wound down each afternoon with Michael Baisden have come to a rude and lonely awakening. The two, who some might consider to be the “big two,” are no longer on the air in New York.
KISS-FM (98.7), formally known as WKRS, merged with its competitor WBLS (107.5 FM) in a move that is symptomatic of a troubling trend within the industry that is disproportionately impacting minority radio stations.
Since the introduction in 2007 of P.P.M. (People Tracking Meter), new technology that tracks audiences’ listening habits, Black stations have been suffering.
“The recent economic downturn has affected the profitability of everyone in radio, but the decline has been much more pronounced in adult African-American targeted stations, largely because of the impact of P.P.M,” said Jeff Smulyan, chief executive of WRKS’s parent, Emmis Communications, to the New York Times.
For example, Smulyan said, since the introduction of P.P.M., WKRS and WBLS have slipped from the top of their target demographic to between sixth and 11th place.
Many have raised concerns about the merger’s impact on the Black community.
“I am saddened that an important Black voice is going silent in New York City, especially during this important election year,” said Tom Joyner, the popular syndicated radio talk show host, in a statement. “Black radio has been and always will be an extremely important motivational force in the community. Although social media currently gets a lot of credit and rightfully so, nothing can replace the role Black radio plays in empowering, informing and entertaining Black people.”
The “Tom Joyner Morning Show” along with other popular shows such as “The Michael Baisden Show” and Rev. Al Sharpton’s Sunday program were staples on KISS-FM’s lineup.
Michael Baisden has started a petition for his listeners to sign on change.org.
While the twin troubles of P.P.M. and the economy have forced some Black stations to close their doors, some Black media companies have made adjustments, changing their formats from more urban genres to general audience. One such company was Radio One, which changed the format of some of its 53 stations last year, said Alfred C. Liggins III, the chief executive.
“The economics of this business have changed so drastically,” said Mr. Liggins, as quoted in the Times article. “It is a shame. But something’s got to give.”