WRKS’ 30-year Radio Legacy Ends After Merging with WBLS

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KISS FMThe merging of urban radio stations KISS-FM and WBLS Thursday spelled the beginning of the end for KISS-FM.

Listeners of WRKS, better known as 98.7 KISS-FM, were transitioned to 107.5 WBLS when the two stations began simulcasting at 10 a.m. Thursday. A special tribute is planned this weekend prior to the station’s sign-off.

Jeff Smulyan, chairman and CEO of Emmis Communications, thanked employees and long-time fans for the station?s ?amazing 30-year run? which included several times of being ?the number one ranked station? in New York. Emmis Communications purchased the station in 1994.

?Recent changes in the way radio ratings are measured made it very difficult for us to find success with KISS-FM, despite the great work of our Emmis New York team,” Smulyan said in a press release that explained the company?s plans. ?We hope the best parts of KISS will continue to live on. With enhanced financial flexibility, we look forward to enhancing our service to New York?s urban community at our award-winning Hot97 brand.?

According to the news release, the transaction includes Emmis Communications selling KISS-FM and the current format of Emmis programs on 98.7 FM to YMR Media, which recently acquired WBLS-FM and WLIB-AM. The transaction also includes Emmis leasing the 98.7 frequency to ESPN Radio, which will begin simulcasting on Monday.

The company?s news release further stated that Emmis stands to gain $96 million from the merger and other current transactions in which the company is involved.

In addition to the merger in New York, Emmis is also selling its ?controlling interest in three of our radio stations to Merlin Media? and there is a ?forthcoming sale of KXOS in Los Angeles.? The sales, according to Smulyan, will cause the company to ?have one of the healthiest balance sheets in media thereby positioning Emmis for future growth.?

The company did not indicate how many WRKS employees the merger impacted, but the press release said those who were affected will receive ?generous severance packages.?

Meanwhile, radio personalities from WRKS will move over to WBLS as the station makes adjustments to its current program line-up. WRKS? mid-day host, Shalia, and night host, Lenny Greene, will continue their programs on WBLS and will stay in their same time slots. This move will allow WBLS to fill in its mid-day shift which has been vacant since radio personality, Egypt, left the station in February.

WBLS will keep comedian Steve Harvey?s nationally syndicated morning radio show on while New York-based radio personality Jeff Foxx will remain in the afternoons. Tom Joyner, Michael Baisden and Keith Sweat will all lose their syndicated time slots.

Both WRKS and WBLS will celebrate KISS-FM’s history this weekend before the station signs-off. Beginning Monday, the two stations will officially become one station, WBLS.

?I have so many friends on the KISS-FM team and this is an extraordinarily difficult decision for me,? Smulyan stated in the press release, ?however, the benefits to the financial health of Emmis as a whole are significant.?