|City||New York, New York|
|Broadcast area||New York City area|
|Slogan||Your #1 Source for R&B!|
|Frequency||107.5 MHz (also on HD Radio)|
|First air date||July 13, 1951|
|Format||FM/HD1: Urban Adult Contemporary
HD2: WLIB simulcast (Urban Contemporary Gospel)
|HAAT||415 meters (1,362 ft)|
|Callsign meaning||W Black Listening Station
World's Best Looking Sound
|Former callsigns||WEVD-FM (1951-1955)
(WBLS-WLIB License LLC)
|Sister stations||WLIB, WQHT|
The station has had a number of call letters, owners and formats throughout its history.
It is currently owned by Emmis Communications, along with sister station WLIB (1190 AM). The two stations share studios in the West Village section of Manhattan, and WBLS' transmitting antenna is located on 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 reactivated 107.5 as WLIB-FM. As the Federal Communications Commission recently instituted a rule prohibiting full-time AM/FM simulcasting in large markets, WLIB-FM was programmed with a jazz music 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 ceeding 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 final approval from the Federal Communications Commission. The purchase was consummated on June 10, 2014.
- Caribbean Feva with Dahved Levy (1999-present)
- Express Yourself with Imhotep Gary Byrd (2009-present)
- Sunday Classics with Herb Bary and Debi B (1982-2015)
- Felix Hernandez's Rhythm Revue (2012-2013)
- The Show with Doug E. Fresh (2013-2016)
- The Wendy Williams Experience (2001-2009)
- "Court OKs YMF Media LMA Of Inner City Stations". allaccess.com. 2012-05-21. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
- "For the Record." Broadcasting, May 8, 1972, pg. 72. (PDF)
- "Changing Hands." Broadcasting, July 29, 1974, pg. 21 (PDF)[permanent dead link]
- "In Brief." Broadcasting, October 21, 1974, pg. 9 (PDF)
- http://www.americanradiohistory.com/Archive-Ratings-Directories/Inside-Radio/Inside-Radio-Spring-1982.pdf pg234
- 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.