December 17, 2013

New York City Loses Another "Black Radio" Station

Perhaps super programmer and New York legendary on air personality Frankie Crocker just took another turn, roll, and spin in his grave.

News comes that urban talk station 1600 WWRL will become a Spanish language station in January. Last year New York's 98.7 Kiss FM closed shop and left the city with only one urban adult non-hip hop programmed FM station, 107.5 WBLS. New York, the largest market in the country and highest concentration of African Americans anywhere in the country, now has only part of one urban programmed informational AM station in WLIB, which is a gospel music station. Also available to New York City listeners is Open Line (Sunday mornings) and Imhotep Gary Byrd Experience (Sunday evenings) on WBLS.

WWRL has been a liberal politics leaning progressive talk show format, however it also boasted hosts that addressed African American issues on the radio for a large part of it's programming day as well. Until recently WWRL was the New York affiliate of the Rev. Al Sharpton show. (Sharpton is now heard live on gospel station 1190 WLIB).

The station was one the music leader of Soul and R&B music for the African American community by outpacing WLIB and WADO in the late 1960's and early 70's before the arrival of WBLS FM in 1972. It was the station that Frankie Crocker and Gary Byrd first worked for after arriving to the big city from Buffalo, New York. The station was once home to legendary personalities Hank Spann, Jerry Bledsoe, Al Gee, and others.

From the African American Newspaper The Amsterdam News -- The Black-owned talk radio station WWRL is switching to a Spanish-language format and leaving its progressive format behind, according to sources close to the AmNews. The silencing of yet another Black radio station is scheduled for January 1.

The station gave employees the news on Friday via email and phone calls. Employees informed the AmNews that the station is citing low advertising revenue coming in as a factor for the change. All current programming will be off the air.

WWRL is home to several progressive Black radio talk shows including “The WWRL Morning Show with Mark Riley,” “All Things New York with Rennie Bishop” and “The Armstrong Williams Show.”

Riley said he learned the news Friday afternoon and wasn't surprised. He told the AmNews that the station was showing the signs far before the announcement.

“I knew there were trying to a roll out Spanish-language formatted stations about the country,” he said. The nature of the business has changed so dramatically. They just dropped a handful of progressive radio stations across the country. It's part of a trend.”

Read more at the Amsterdam News

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