Kiss it goodbye: Station meets unceremonious fate

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 5/5/2012, 9:43 p.m.
On April 24, 98.7 Kiss FM's Twitter was still asking people to join them for...
Kiss it goodbye: Station meets unceremonious fate

On April 24, 98.7 Kiss FM's Twitter was still asking people to join them for the annual AIDS Walk New York on May 20, with a link to their page to sign up for participation. Kiss FM was still a functioning station for Black music in New York City, as it had been for several decades.

It would all end just a few days later.

Last Thursday, Emmis Communications, which owns Kiss FM, announced that the company had leased the 98.7 FM frequency to ESPN. ESPN would move its ESPN New York station to 98.7 FM from its 1050 AM dial, and 1050 AM will become ESPN Deportes, their Spanish-speaking station. YMF Media, the owner of 107.5 WBLS, bought the Kiss brand and plans on adding some Kiss radio personalities and programming to their station.

"I extend my gratitude and deepest thanks to many special people who created the memories and sense of community that Kiss FM delivered for 30 years," said Emmis New York SVP and General Manager Alexandra Cameron. "Emmis will be forever grateful. We are so very glad that a part of Kiss will remain remembered through WBLS programming as they welcome beloved personalities like Shalia [Scott] and Lenny Green."

Fatiyn Muhammad, executive producer of Al Sharpton's "Hour of Power" and "Open Line" on Kiss FM, spoke with the AmNews about the Kiss legacy and how it ties in to WBLS.

"One of the things is that we play similar music," said Muhammad as he sat in the AmNews' offices wearing a 98.7 Kiss FM jacket. "We've had known disc jockeys who've worked for both stations. And we've dealt with issues that affected our community. We are servers of the community and we serve the same community. How you go about serving that community is, of course, through the shows you put on and the people who are involved in those programs."

Over the past decade, new technologies have shifted the power of radio toward news and oldies-oriented stations. In 2007, the radio ratings service Arbitron changed the way it counted ratings by incorporating a new system called the Portable People Meter--or PPMs, as they were known in the industry. Arbitron said the system is more accurate in measuring ratings by precisely tracking radio signals. It also started the downfall of Kiss.

Under the old way of measuring ratings, Kiss and WBLS were at the top of the heap in the coveted 25- to 54-year-old market that advertisers catered to. Post PPM, they were falling between fifth and 10th on the ratings list or out of the top 10 completely.

"Not only did the host of our talk shows feel that this was somehow going to hurt Black or urban radio stations," said Muhammad, "Arbitron felt that through the diary [the previous way they listed listenership] that its ratings were 'elevated.' They said the PPM was gonna give you a more accurate reading and now the advertisers can look at how many people are really listening to you. The problem I had with that is, do you distribute the PPMs according to the demographics of your city?