|City||New York, New York|
|Broadcast area||New York metropolitan area|
|Frequency||107.5 MHz (HD Radio)|
|Slogan||#1 for R&B|
|Format||Urban adult contemporary|
|Owner||Mediaco Holding, Inc. |
(WBLS-WLIB License LLC)
First air date
|September 15, 1965|
Former call signs
|HAAT||415 meters (1,362 ft)|
Public license information
WBLS (107.5 MHz) is an urban adult contemporary formatted FM radio station, licensed to New York City. It is currently owned by Mediaco Holding and operated by Emmis Communications under a shared services agreement, along with sister stations WLIB (1190 AM) and WQHT (97.1 FM). The three stations share studios in the Hudson Square neighborhood of lower Manhattan, and WBLS' transmitter is located at the Empire State Building. It was previously owned by YMF Media LLC, owned jointly by investor Ronald Burkle and Magic Johnson, which had assumed control of WBLS and WLIB's former parent company, Inner City Broadcasting Corporation, on October 19, 2012 at a purchase price of $180 million.
Several years later the New Broadcasting Company, then-owners of WLIB, was awarded a construction permit for the dormant frequency and on September 15, 1965 WLIB-FM signed on. As the Federal Communications Commission had recently instituted a rule prohibiting full-time AM/FM simulcasting in large markets, WLIB-FM was programmed with a Jazz format. The stations were split up in 1972, when Inner City Broadcasting purchased WLIB (AM); WLIB-FM was then renamed WBLS. Inner City reunited the pair with its purchase of WBLS in 1974.
As part of the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation stations, program director Frankie Crocker held 5% of the radio market in the northeast from 1975 to 1978, only ceding the title of top R&B station to upstart WKTU when that station broke out playing disco and club music in 1979. By 1982 it had fallen to number 3 in the market.
In 1993, Calvin O. Butts III, pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, led a threat to boycott the station if they played any form of gangsta rap. Butts' protests culminated in his bulldozing a pile of hip-hop recordings during a rally. In response to the protests, WBLS excised most hip hop music from its air and carefully screened what it did play for content and language.
In 1995, after WRKS was purchased by Emmis Communications and dropped all hip-hop music in favor of a similar adult R&B format, WBLS countered with a controversial advertising campaign labeling WRKS as a "plantation station." WBLS shortly reverted to urban contemporary, only to exit again in 2004 when WBLS switched to urban adult contemporary.
WBLS acquired WRKS's intellectual property in a merger of the two outlets announced on April 26, with a joint statement on both stations' respective websites. In addition to acquiring WRKS's intellectual property, WBLS and WLIB also moved into Emmis's New York production facility in the West Village section of Manhattan, into studio space vacated by WRKS during the week of May 21, 2012.
During the 2012-13 NBA season, WBLS broadcast selected New York Knicks games in an agreement with WEPN-FM. These games conflicted with WEPN-FM's coverage of the NFL's New York Jets when both teams were scheduled to play on Sunday afternoons.
On February 11, 2014, Emmis Communications announced it would purchase WBLS and WLIB from YMF Media LLC for $131 million, pending FCC approval. The purchase was consummated on June 10, 2014. On July 1, 2019, Emmis announced that it would sell WBLS and WQHT to the public company Mediaco Holding—an affiliate of Standard General—for $91.5 million and a $5 million promissory note. Emmis will be a shareholder in Mediaco Holding and continue to operate the stations.
In 2000 WBLS launched its interactive sister site WBLSi with radio internet convergence company FMITV in Burbank, California, WBLSi.com featured live original music streams to cater to a variety of tastes – The Jamz, Slow Jamz, Hip-Hop and WBLS Classics with on-demand access to concerts and music videos. Wendy Williams, Egypt Sherrod, and Rap City's Big Lez doubled on the online platform as IJ's or WBLS' the first Internet Jockeys. The first internet program director of WBLSi was Hakeem Khaaliq.
- "Court OKs YMF Media LMA Of Inner City Stations". allaccess.com. 2012-05-21. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
- "For the Record; Call letter actions." Broadcasting, May 8, 1972, pg. 72.
- "Changing Hands; Approved." Broadcasting, July 29, 1974, pg. 21 (PDF)
- "In Brief; Other (FM) shoe drops." Broadcasting, October 21, 1974, pg. 9 (PDF)
- "Group Owners Directory" (PDF). Inside Radio Radio Ratings Report & Directory (Spring). March 1982. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
- Myers, Steven Lee (1993-12-05). "WBLS-FM to Stop Playing Violent Songs". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-02.
A popular radio station in New York City, WBLS-FM, plans to stop playing songs with lyrics advocating violence or expressing hatred of women in a new policy aimed particularly at the hard-core forms of rap music that have stirred criticism from some black leaders in recent years. The station's owner, Inner City Broadcasting Corporation, which also operates a talk-radio station, WLIB-AM, will begin screening the lyrics of all the songs it plays, a spokesman, Joseph J. Carella, said yesterday. ...
- Pristin, Terry (1997-01-18). "When Aretha Spells R-E-V-E-N-U-E: Two Radio Stations Battle Bitterly for the Soul of the City". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-24.
- Sisario, Ben (2012-04-26). "New York Radio Rivals Kiss-FM and WBLS to Merge". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
- "Emmis buys WBLS and WLIB-A". allaccess.com. 2014-02-11. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
- "Emmis Forms New Mediaco Holding Company With Standard General, To Transfer WBLS And WQHT (Hot 97)/New York To New Entity". All Access. Retrieved 2019-07-02.
- "FMiTV Adds Third Station To Roster". Radio World. 2000-10-04. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
- The BRE Editors (2019-01-04). "Editors' Introduction". Berkeley Review of Education. 8 (1). doi:10.5070/b88142215. ISSN 1947-5578.