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City of license New York, New York
Broadcast area New York City metropolitan area
Slogan "Your Home for Gospel, Inspiration and Information"
Frequency 1190 kHz (AM)
First air date December 23, 1941
Format Urban Contemporary Gospel
Power 10,000 watts daytime
30,000 watts nighttime
Class B
Facility ID 28204
Callsign meaning W
The Voice of LIBerty (early slogan)
Owner Emmis Communications
Sister stations WBLS
Webcast Listen Live
Website wlib.com

WLIB (1190 AM.) is an urban contemporary gospel AM radio station located in New York City. WLIB is owned by Emmis Communications, through licensee WBLS-WLIB License LLC, along with sister station WBLS (107.5 FM). The two stations share studios in West Village section of Manhattan, and WLIB's transmitter is located in Lyndhurst, New Jersey.

The station was formerly by YMF Media LLC, owned jointly by investor Ronald Burkle and basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson. The firm assumed control of WLIB and WBLS's former parent company, the bankrupt Inner City Broadcasting Corporation, on October 19, 2012 at a purchase price of $180 million.[1]

On February 11, 2014, Emmis Communications announced it would purchase WLIB and WBLS from YMF Media for $131 million, pending final approval from the Federal Communications Commission.[2] The purchase was consummated on June 10, 2014.


When WLIB first went on the air the station's target audience was upper middle-class and wealthy New Yorkers, as evidenced by its format of classical music and popular standards which competed with WQXR.[3] The station was purchased by New York Post publisher Dorothy Schiff in 1944 and regularly ran news updates from the Post's newsroom at various times during the day.[4]

In 1949 WLIB was purchased by the New Broadcasting Company. The firm was headed by former WNYC executive Morris S. Novik and his brother, garment executive Harry Novik. Upon taking control of the station the Novik brothers turned WLIB into a station which served ethnic audiences, with large amounts of programming targeting the city's Jewish and African American communities. The station eventually became the leading voice of New York's black residents, and established a presence in the community's epicenter with studios inside the Hotel Theresa in Harlem. During the mid-to-late 1950s its airstaff included pioneering black radio disc jockey Hal Jackson, actor William Marshall (of Blacula fame) and Victor Bozeman, who would later become a Los Angeles-based staff announcer for NBC television.[5]

In the 1960s WLIB was one of several commercial jazz stations in New York. Among its disc jockeys was Billy Taylor, whose shows were not only great listening but an education. According to him, "With the help Del Shields and Ed Williams [we] built the biggest jazz audience in New York." During much of this period WLIB's primary competition came from WWRL, another station which programmed to Black audiences.

In 1969 the program Higher Horizons won a Peabody Award. The program and community service was dedicated to aiding black youth find jobs, to stay in school, and, through "Higher Horizons," to obtain a college education. Each week, colleges and universities presented their programs, their requirements, and their special opportunities for disadvantaged youth with gratifying response from aspiring young blacks.[6] WLIB became black-owned in the 1970s after activists picketed the station and demanded African Americans be given a chance to purchase it. Many felt the station’s series of white owners didn't care about broadcasting with community concerns in mind. Percy Sutton, Malcolm X’s former attorney and then-Manhattan borough president, formed the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation (ICBC) with the backing of a group of black investors (including Hal Jackson and Billy Taylor, who was installed as WLIB's general manager), and purchased WLIB from the Novik brothers in 1972.[7][8] The station’s first talk shows featured Betty Shabazz, widow of Malcolm X, and Dr. Carlos Russell, a noted former college professor who taught some of the Black and Latino students who later founded the Young Lords Party.


Since becoming black-owned the station has broadcast political, Afrocentric, and health-centered programming aimed at New York's Afro-Caribbean community. WLIB’s advocacy strength was credited with getting out the vote for David Dinkins in 1989 as he ran to become New York City’s first black mayor.[9]

Increased signal power[edit]

The station's nighttime power was increased to 30,000 watts in the early 2000s, in a swap with WOWO in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which also broadcasts on 1190 AM. Prior to the power increase WLIB operated during daytime hours (sunrise to sunset) only, deferring at night to WOWO's 50,000-watt clear-channel signal. Inner City Broadcasting purchased the Fort Wayne station in 1994 for the sole purpose of lowering its power in order to increase WLIB's, setting the stage for WLIB to eventually begin broadcasting around the clock. After gaining FCC approval for 24-hour broadcasting, it would still be a few years before WLIB would actually begin nighttime programming. In the meantime Inner City sold WOWO, whose nighttime signal is now greatly reduced.

In 2004, the station affiliated with Air America Radio due to a lack of advertiser support and ratings during its daytime hours. The switch was controversial, with many in the community seeing the switch as replacing black activist programming with Air America's primarily white, liberal on-air personalities.[10]

former WLIB logo, as an Air America Radio affiliate

From 12 a.m.–5 a.m. every night, WLIB aired a slate of local black-oriented talk programming originated by owners of the station, I.C.B.C. Holdings. Principal among the late night shows was the Global Black Experience, hosted by Imhotep Gary Byrd. Also produced by I.C.B.C. were two Sunday morning programs, featuring Al Sharpton and Dinkins; these programs were moved to Saturday after the format change.[11] Generally, from 5 a.m. onward, Air America Radio programs were carried on WLIB. However, starting in 2005, the apolitical Satellite Sisters aired instead of the Mike Malloy show on WLIB from 10 p.m. to midnight.

Air America programming left WLIB after August 31, 2006, effective with the expiration of the Air America-Inner City lease. The network's new flagship station became WWRL the next day. It was rumored that the progressive talk format would be retained using local hosts and syndicated talker Ed Schultz, under a lease agreement with Randy Michaels' company, Radioactive, LLC.[12] However, negotiations fell through, and on August 21, 2006, WLIB announced that they would switch to a gospel music format, after considering country music, oldies, Spanish oldies, rock, classic dance, smooth jazz and even urban talk from Radio One.

On-air personalities[edit]



External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°47′48″N 74°06′06″W / 40.79667°N 74.10167°W / 40.79667; -74.10167