February 2, 2012

With All Eyes on Indianapolis, Mine Are On the City's Radio

From Guest Blogger AKIEM BAILUM On Twitter: @Li495Akiem

This week, the eyes of everyone (not just in the United States and Canada) but also all over the world turn to Indianapolis, Indiana as the city is only a few days away from hosting Super Bowl 46, the biggest sporting event in America. Just about the only households not watching the game this Sunday are households without TVs.

But, with all eyes on Indy this week, I decided to take a different approach to it. With this being a radio blog, of course, I thought it’d be a good idea to review the landscape of radio in this city—and in particular, its black targeted stations.

Indianapolis is a huge black city in comparison to the rest of the state. According to 2010 Census figures, Indy is approximately 28% African American whereas the state of Indiana is only 9% black. In comparison, South Bend, Fort Wayne, and Terre Haute have black populations of 26, 18, and 10 percent, respectively. It can be said also that the South Bend number is attributed to Notre Dame University which is attended by many from both Indy and Chicago.

Radio One has a presence in Indy. Here, they own 4 radio stations as well as their only television station outside of TV One. They own WHHH-FM H..H..Hot 96.3 which is described as more of a Rhythmic station. Unlike the majority of Urban stations which cater to the younger crowds (aka Hip-Hop stations), Hot 96.3 is not an affiliate of Rickey Smiley’s morning show based out of sister Urban WHTA-FM Hot 107.9 in Atlanta. It still airs Russ Parr mornings who is syndied to several markets from WKYS-FM Kiss 93.9 in Washington, DC (also a Radio One station). WCDX-FM “iPower 92.1” is another Russ Parr affiliate and uses the “Interactive Hip Hop & R&B” slogan as well. Not that there’s a connection between the two since it was also used once upon a time by KBXX 97.9 The Box in Houston and they never aired Parr.

In addition to Parr, they (of course) have various other personalities including DJ Wrekk One evenings. He is also the music director at Hot 96.3. Their lone female jock is Skyy Daniels who currently only does weekends at the station.

They own WHHH-FM H..H..Hot 96.3 which is described as more of a Rhythmic station. Unlike the majority of Urban stations which cater to the younger crowds (aka Hip-Hop stations), Hot 96.3 is not an affiliate of Rickey Smiley’s morning show based out of sister Urban WHTA-FM Hot 107.9 in Atlanta. It still airs Russ Parr mornings who is syndied to several markets from WKYS-FM Kiss 93.9 in Washington, DC (also a Radio One station). WCDX-FM “iPower 92.1” is another Russ Parr affiliate and uses the “Interactive Hip Hop & R&B” slogan as well. Not that there’s a connection between the two since it was also used once upon a time by KBXX 97.9 The Box in Houston and they never aired Parr.

But, Radio One Indianapolis has a “Grown n’ Sexy” or Urban Adult Contemporary station as well. To find it, you would have to turn your radio dial a good plenty to the left before you arrive at WTLC-FM at 106.7. It simply calls itself “Indy’s R&B Leader” and airs Tom Joyner mornings. “First Lady” Khris Raye does afternoon-drive-time daily from 3p-7p on TLC and is also their Assistant Program Director and Music Director.

Among many other shows, on weekends, it also airs the “Hour of Power” with the Reverend Al Sharpton. The flagship for that show is WRKS 98.7 Kiss FM in New York City.

In addition to WTLC-FM, there’s also a WTLC-AM present at 1310 AM in Naptown. There, you will find “1310 The Light”, the Gospel station that is Naptown’s take on Radio One’s “Praise” stations in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, etc. It, of course, is Indy’s affiliate for Yolanda Adams’ Morning Show and airs it from from 6a-9a.

Except, her morning show is a 4 hour show. The stations in the ATL, Philly, and the D all air the full 4 hours. Also, “JC” and Terri D are featured on the websites for both The Light and TLC.

As, mentioned, they also own WDNI-LP, a Low-Power television station on Channel 19.

When I wrote my debut column here for Urban Radio Nation, I opined about my thoughts about Houston radio and how there are “outliers” inside Radio One’s vast portfolio. I call them outliers because they’re Radio One-owned stations that don’t necessarily target the black community. One of them is a news station in Space City. Another one is a Top 40 station in Indianapolis called “Radio Now” @ 100.9. Before it assumed 93.1’s CHR format via purchase, though, it aired Smooth Jazz programs—including a morning show hosted by the real-life couple of John Cinnamon and his wife, Ann Craig.

Many Jazz stations lately before their eventual flips aired Broadcast Architecture Network programming from Allan Kepler, a radio veteran. Clear Channel holds a stake in that channel.

93.1 is now the home of leading conservative News/Talk/Information station WIBC-FM which was once at 1070 AM, but it moved to FM to make way for a new ESPN-affiliated sports station called “1070 The Fan” WFNI. It’s now the AM flagship of the Indianapolis Colts along with Country station 97.1 Hank FM WLHK.

All of the above happened around late 2007.

Now, of course, what determines if a radio station continues to sink or swim will be what they score in the latest ratings book. The latest to come out was the Holiday 2011 book that is normally dominated by the station that plays Christmas music. In Indy, that station traditionally is WXYB-FM B-105.7, the Adult Contemporary/Soft Rock station. So, that book, when factoring in all of the other stations, probably has to be taken with a grain of salt, even though, B’s ratings are still consistently high whether it’s Christmas time or not—unlike (these days, seemingly) Chicago’s WLIT-FM 93.9 the Lite. But WTLC 106.7 and Hot 96.3 are still amassing huge ratings in Indianapolis.

Also, in Holiday 2011, out of Radio One’s 3 FM stations, Radio Now is the lowest rated. Sure, it has a familiar brand to Naptown residents, but it has a market share that is lower than either of R1’s black-targeted stations.

I’m not criticizing Radio-One as others probably would for owning a station that airs Top 40/Mainstream Hits. In fact, I somewhat commend them for going outside the box and trying different formats other than what their norm is.

But, Indianapolis is in somewhat the same situation as Houston in a sense that it may have too few black stations. But there are differences between the two. Indy is a smaller city so that’ll mean less radio stations here than in H-Town for potential format changes to “black” formats. And, Houston is more diverse than Indianapolis as well.

If anything, Entercom’s WNTR-FM My 107.9 (Classic Hits) could change as well as Cumulus’ WRWM-FM i94 (Adult CHR) given that their competitors have taken both stations to the cleaners, Holiday book or not. Both could change but if they change to black formats, that remains to be seen.

The next set of national PPM ratings should be out soon, so that will give us a better idea (in Indy and elsewhere) what stations aren’t and are ringing in the new year with a wide listenership.

And which are simply “Napping” on their audience & city.



-Akiem Bailum's previous video blog post was titled: Houston We Have a Problem!

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