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|City of license||New York City|
|Broadcast area||New York City|
|Slogan||"Your #1 Source for R&B!"|
|Frequency||107.5 (MHz) (also on HD Radio)
107.5-2 FM simulcast of WLIB (HD Radio)
|First air date||July 1951|
|Format||Urban Adult Contemporary|
|Former callsigns||WEVD-FM (1951-1955)
|Owner||YMF Media LLC
(sale pending to Emmis Communications)
(YMF Media New York Licensee LLC)
The station has had a number of call letters, owners and formats throughout its history.
It is currently owned by YMF Media LLC, 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. YMF Media is owned jointly by investor Ronald Burkle and Magic Johnson. The firm 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.
In the interim period prior to the Inner City takeover, WBLS continued as a jazz station. The format later included rhythm and blues, soul music and vocalese (poetry and prose, such as Nikki Giovanni and the Last Poets). This format was called "The Total Black Experience in Sound." The format evolved into the urban contemporary format.
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.
WBLS is currently the flagship station of comedian and radio DJ Steve Harvey and The Steve Harvey Morning Show. Other current WBLS personalities include Donnie McClurkin, Jeffrey "The Foxx That Rocks" Foxx, Shaila Scott, Lenny Green, Felix Hernandez, DJ Scratch of EPMD, Imhotep Gary Byrd, Kevin Hodge, Earthquake and Déjà Vu with "The WBLS' Quake's House Afternoon Show", Dahved Levy, Angelique Perrin, Loni Love, MC Lyte, Louis Vega, Doug E. Fresh, DJ Bent Roc, Bishop Hezekiah Walker, Liz Black, Eddie Love, Al Sharpton, Freddy "Bugsy" Buggs, DJ Antoine Qua, Clay Berry, DJ Kut, DJ Brown Hornit, Chubb Rock, Dr. Bob Lee, with Bob Slade, and DJ Marley Marl.
During the early 1970s to the early 1980s, Frankie Crocker was WBLS' program director and afternoon disc jockey, and is credited with defining what became the station's signature Urban Contemporary sound. Crocker served three stints at WBLS during his career. WBLS was also the longtime home of Hal Jackson, co-founder of former parent company Inner City Broadcasting. Jackson hosted the station's Sunday Classics program weekly until just before his death on May 23, 2012.
Other notable personalities who have appeared on WBLS include: Vy Higgensen, Kenny "Spider" Webb, G. Keith Alexander, Chuck Leonard, Wendy Williams, Vaughan Harper, Champagne, Yvonne Mobley, Carlos DeJesus, Doug Banks, DeDe McGuire, Rick Ricardo, Niecie Colon, Paul Mooney, Egypt, DJ Pete Rock, DJ Premier, with future WWPR-FM's Breakfast Club host and MTV2's Guy Code/MTV's Girl Code cast member Charlamagne Tha God, and Johnny "Mr. Magic" Rivas.
The current voice of the station is Pat Garrett.
- "Court OKs YMF Media LMA Of Inner City Stations". All Access Music Group. 2012-05-21. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
- "For the Record." Broadcasting, May 8, 1972, pg. 72. 
- "Changing Hands." Broadcasting, July 29, 1974, pg. 21
- "In Brief." Broadcasting, October 21, 1974, pg. 9
- 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". All Access Music Group. 2014-02-11. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
- WBLS Website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WBLS
- Radio-Locator information on WBLS
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WBLS