Kiss FM, Legendary NYC Urban Radio Station, Goes Off the Air

Kiss 98.7 NY Logo - H 2012

Kiss 98.7 NY Logo - H 2012

The station merged with WBLS, the city's other African-American-focused broadcaster, amid falling ratings and the loss of its frequency.

Sad New Yorkers and longtime listeners called into 98.7 Kiss FM for the last time Sunday night, as the iconic station switched off its transmission at midnight to make way for sports talk radio.

The broadcaster, which had provided "Classic Soul and R&B" as well as talk shows and news, for the past 30 years, officially merged Monday with WBLS-FM 107.5, its longtime rival in the New York City urban adult contemporary radio market. The move comes after Emmis Communications, which owned Kiss, agreed to lease out the 98.7 frequency to Disney and its ESPN Radio, which had been broadcasting on the weaker 1050 AM signal and was seeking a larger foothold in the sports talk radio market dominated by WFAN-AM 660. Emmis receives $96 million in the deal.

All weekend, WBLS and Kiss (WRKS) broadcasted tributes to the latter's long legacy of music and social participation -- callers to Rev. Al Sharpton's radio show Sunday night recalled first hearing about the Rodney King riots on Kiss -- and mourned the loss of the station. Launched in August 1981, it helped give birth to hip-hop, popularizing groups including Run-DMC. 

The stations' merger will result in Steve Harvey, whose syndicated show is a WBLS morning mainstay, staying on the air, followed by Shaila from Kiss FM from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., WBLS' Jeff Fox from 3 to 7 p.m. and Kiss' Lenny Green taking the microphone from 7 p.m. to midnight.

That means that such stars as activist Michael Baisden, whose show is syndicated across the country, and Tom Joyner, whose morning show boasts comedy, news and music, will no longer be heard in the New York metropolitan area.