New York City area radio listeners are still in shock over the demise of WRKS (98.7 KISS-FM) as an urban oriented radio station. The operation has merged with its R&B rival WBLS-FM. On April 30, KISS-FM was no more; its signal now streams ESPN sports talk.
“Let’s linger a moment on the loss of a radio station that over 31 years made millions of friends and then was snatched away with only a few hours to say goodbye,” noted New York Daily News radio beat reporter David Hinckley on that day. “There’s no villain here. This is all about money. It’s still sad.”
Questions of villainy aside, a coalition of advocates want the Federal Communications Commission to consider the state of black radio, and how to keep it alive.
“Media consolidation has made it harder for people of color to own radio outlets,” they write. “African Americans own just 3 percent of all full-power commercial radio stations. And many urban radio stations that purport to serve black audiences air little local programming and are seldom responsive to the needs of their communities.”
The group wants the FCC to do a “thorough study on the state of black radio that examines who owns urban-formatted radio stations.”
Signed, Paul Porter, co-founder of Industry Ears, Joseph Torres of Free Press, Casey Rae, deputy director of the Future of Music Coalition, Dave ‘Davey D’ Cook of Pacifica Radio, and six others.
The letter continues: “The FCC must take proactive steps to expand ownership opportunities for people of color and other marginalized communities, and must examine fully the impact on diversity of any media ownership rule changes the FCC proposes.”
The Commission is currently reviewing its media ownership rules, and may slightly change the regulations that restrict how many radio licenses an entity can own. The signers also want the agency to consider shortening the length of a broadcast license. Currently it is eight years.