Last updated: April 30, 2012 - 8:17am
On its surface, the merger last week of WRKS and WBLS, longtime rivals in the R&B radio format in New York, was business as usual for the broadcast industry. Two struggling competitors combined operations, and a deep-pocketed third party — Disney — came along to lease the leftover frequency. But radio executives and analysts said the deal also reflected a broader trend in the business that has taken a toll on black and other minority stations.
Since the introduction five years ago of a new technology for tracking audiences, many such broadcasters have experienced shrinking numbers, forcing radio companies to consolidate stations or switch to general-audience formats. Many black stations have suffered under a new ratings scheme, including WRKS, known as Kiss-FM, (98.7 FM) and WBLS (107.5 FM). While both were once ranked near the top of their desired demographic — adults ages 25 to 54 — since Arbitron’s Portable People Meter’s arrival, they have slipped to between sixth and 11th place, said Jeff Smulyan, chief executive of WRKS’s parent, Emmis Communications.
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