While the rumors were flying for weeks that ESPN Radio would bolt the inferior 1050 AM signal for a quality FM sound, the station’s ultimate destination caught most by surprise.
ESPN/WEPN made it official yesterday with a new home in FM stereo at 98.7. That was the home of Emmis’ KISS since its inception in 1981.
WBLS formed a merger as several personalities, most notably midday Shaila and nighttime Lenny Green, joined the on-air staff.
As we reported last week, gone from the air are morning host Tom Joyner and Michael Baisden in the afternoon. The two syndicated shows did not find a home at WBLS, meaning they are not heard in the nation’s top market.
Joyner has declined FishbowlNY’s interview request, instead discussing the KISS/WBLS situation on his radio show and writing about it on his blog. Joyner and Baisden agree that the bigger picture means that the black audience suffers with fewer options.
“Thursday, we found out that a very important voice in New York City would be silenced,” Joyner writes. “After 20 years of broadcasting to and advocating for a mostly African-American audience, our New York affiliate, KISS 98.7, is now gone. It makes me sad, not just for our own personal loss but because of what the community-at-large is losing.”
Joyner adds that the timing is poor.
“In this all-important election year, we need shows like ours, Michael Baisden’s, Rev. Al’s, Bob Slade’s and others that work hard to make sure the push to register to vote and other information and issues that impact black people have a platform upon which to be heard.”
Slade was with KISS for the entire as news director. He hosted special town hall forums with his Open Line show.FishbowlNY has attempted to reach the veteran broadcaster.
As for Joyner, he says all is not lost for the New York fans.
“I will miss our tri-state family, but fortunately, thanks to technology and social media, we’re not really saying goodbye. We’re in touch in all kinds of ways, especially on the Tom Joyner app and BlackAmericaWeb.com.”
For Baisden’s part, he is taking a slightly different tack. He has created a petition for bringing the show to WBLS. As he writes in the email blast yesterday:
“I thought to myself: who is going to sound the alarm in New York when the next Jena 6 happens–or Trayvon Martin–or Presidential election? And who’s going to promote mentoring to save our children, and talk about domestic violence, and child molestation? When you come up with a radio personality’s name who can be trusted to consistently and passionately address these issues on mainstream FM radio, please let me know.”
Baisden, who also would not speak to FishbowlNY, acknowledges in his statement that the ESPN deal was done strictly for money.
“I have no problem with a radio station turning a profit; this is the advertising business after all,” Baisden writes. “Our sponsors buy commercial time based on the ratings, but The Michael Baisden Show was the highest-rated afternoon urban adult program in New York at the time of this change.”
Like his fellow cast-off, Baisden says New York’s black community needs radio to fulfill its needs.
“Isn’t it funny that during one of the most critical times in our nation’s history, there are fewer African-American AM and FM shows giving information than ever before? What’s really going on, and more importantly, what can we do about it?”
FishbowlNY attempted to reach WBLS for a comment.