By Miguel Lloyd
Ok, so the latest story in radio is that the people in NYC are up in arms because the legendary WRKS…Kiss FM is no more. It has given way to the sports fans of the tri-State area, and has become an ESPN affiliate. With that, as of today, they have also lost legendary syndicated jock, Tom Joyner and the Michael Baisden Show.
For many New Yorkers this is a devastating day. Although I am not a New Yorker, I have plenty of friends who have told me many stories about growing up listening to Kiss. As a hip hop head growing up between DC and VA, you had to know what was going on in New York or you “wasn’t down!”
Well in 1996 when the Telecommunications Act was signed, it changed the game. Now anyone with the biggest checkbooks could come in and buy up many media outlets in the same geographic area, thus controlling what we heard on radio, saw on TV, and read in the newspapers. Then the internet and its power had not been realized by the masses, but was factored into this act along with landlines. This was the proverbial “nail in the coffin” for black radio as we knew it.
Slowly but surely your local jocks were being phased out. No longer was the bulk of your programming coming from right in your area code. It was coming form wherever the syndicators were residing. No longer was it a guarantee that the station you left programmed on your dash in the morning was the same station during afternoon drive. Decisions were being made based on what formats generate the most TSL (time spent listening) and more importantly the greatest ad dollars.
Well across the nation one of the top victims of this transition has been black radio. All in all there are fewer black owned stations than ever before. The largest black owner of black radio is the Radio One group. They currently own a respectable 51 radio stations, in addition to TV One and some other entities of black interest. Compare that to Clear Channel which owns over 800 stations, including black formatted radio station in Detroit, Philadelphia and Chicago. To them, passion for the community gives way to focusing on the dollars. As a veteran of this corporation, I can tell you that, if your favorite “Tom Joyner” station is under performing from an ad sales standpoint, it will soon exit stage left for an AC station that will be playing Barry Manilow, Shania Twain and Norah Jones in a hot minute.
For years though, big markets like LA and NY have been able to call their own shots. These markets had strong enough followings, that it was hard for syndicators to get in those markets because of the local support. So while Norfolk, VA. or Birmingham, AL. had to endure constant format changes, NY was oblivious to such blasphemy. Well NY, welcome to the shell game that is urban radio. Your choices are herby limited. Join the rest of us on tunein radio, pandora, iheart (owned by Clear Channel nonetheless) and other mediums of getting your entertainment and information. Truth is, you are no longer locked into your specific market anyway with these other options. (Shameless plug) At this point the only way to get my radio show is through the internet. As much as I want to change that, it doesn’t stop me or many others who are battling the giant of terrestrial radio to broadcast and make a difference.
Ultimately, some of the local advocates in NY have been silenced and two of the bigger ones that we have in Tom Joyner and Michael Baisden, have also been taken off the air in the biggest media market in America. Thats tragic when there needs to be jocks with the courage and conviction to attack illiteracy, domestic violence, and the Trayvon Martin cases of the world, that Baisden is known for. Not to mention the fight that Tom Joyner took on years ago in saving HBCU’s.
Whether the consequences are intentional or not, the voices of black America are that much quieter after this change in New York.