The Long Kiss Goodbye: Fear of a Black Planet Killed a Black Radio Station

An exclusive NewsOne IN DEPTH analysis

Dan Charnas is the Editorial Director of News & Information at InteractiveOne, and the author of “The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop” (New American Library/Penguin)

 

By Dan Charnas

Article Reprint

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If you aren’t a New Yorker of a certain age, as I am, it might be difficult to understand our dumbfounded reaction to the announcement last week that two legendary archrival Black radio stations — WBLS and 98.7 Kiss FM — would be “merging” into one; or, more accurately, 98.7 Kiss FM would be “celebrated” and then folded into WBLS.

David Hinkley of the New York Daily News likened it to the Yankees and the Mets laying down their bats and combining their rosters. But to me, it’s more like the United States absorbing the Soviet Union after a long, cold war.  At times, the conflict between Kiss and ‘BLS was damn near thermonuclear.

In that heat, our culture was reshaped. And here is just some of the fallout:

  • The birth of dance music as a genre; the rise and fall of disco
  • The ascent of hip-hop
  • The notion of the upscale Black consumer
  • Multiculturalism as a marketing concept

For those who grew up in the Internet era — with radio no longer central to the American cultural experience — it’s hard to fathom that radio stations once had power to influence society in profound ways; and ridiculous that a mere ratings contest between two local radio stations could have global consequences. But it’s true.

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