KMEL's Current Format and Programming
The majority of KMEL's playlist features music under rubric of the Urban Contemporary format, heavy with hip-hop and R&B . In addition to competing with sister station KYLD which uses a Rhythmic contemporary format, KMEL also competes with its Urban adult contemporary ("Urban AC") counterparts: sister station KISQ and pioneering Urban AC station KBLX (owned by ICBC, while KBLX would be pretty much KMEL's only competitor today). While most hip hop stations elsewhere tend to have a mainstream urban format should it be co-owned with an Urban AC, KMEL has been allowed to protect its format approach only because KISQ leans more mainstream/old school R&B and KYLD leans partially Top 40/Pop-ish in its format. KMEL reports as rhythmic contemporary per Mediabase, even though they're not a rhythmic contemporary (another urban station on the rhythmic panel of Mediabase & urban panel of Nielsen BDS was WJHM in Orlando, Florida until morphing to rhythmic and was moved over to BDS' Rhythmic panel in February 2012. Another station, WPGC-FM in Washington, D.C., would follow suit in July 2012). Per Nielsen BDS reports, they are urban contemporary, KBFB in Dallas/Fort Worth are rhythmic contemporary stations per Mediabase reports, but they report on the BDS urban panel despite being the only rhythmics in those areas where there are existing urban contemporary stations (WKYS/WERQ & KKDA-FM). KMEL, as of 2012, is now listed as urban contemporary per RadioStationWorld.com rather than rhythmic. It is one of the last remaining urban contemporary stations on the Mediabase rhythmic panel.
Despite being among one of the most well-programmed urban radio stations for the past 20-plus years, KMEL has suffered a setback in ratings between 2009 and 2010. This was mainly due in part to Arbitron phasing out the diary keeping approach to ratings for the PPMs. This contributed to the brief decline of KMEL's ratings since the station has a specific audience target. While any longtime urban contemporary stations in other major cities (like WPGC-FM in Washington D.C. and KPRS in Kansas City) had to introduce songs typical of what is played on rhythmic radio stations to reboost ratings, KMEL programming executives decided not to revert back to its rhythmic/churban roots; it remained urban and instead the playlist rotation was tightened as of 2010 in order to keep the longtime station from changing formats.
In addition to its typical daytime mixture of hip hop and R&B, KMEL plays R&B and soul slow jams from roughly 11pm to 1am Monday through Thursday and Urban contemporary gospel Sunday mornings. Monday through Thursdays at 10pm are known as "The Ten O'Clock Booty Call" with the hour devoted to love songs. KMEL is one of two stations to play gospel; KBLX is the other. It even plays Old School hip hop and soul during midday mix show "The Twelve O'Clock Throwback Mix", on Friday mornings "Funky Fridays", and mixed in general during their weekend playlist rotation.
In line with its slogan, "The People's Station", KMEL broadcasts the community-affairs show Street Soldiers, hosted by Dr. Joseph E. Marshall, on Sunday evenings. However, the station's commitment to community activism in its programming was notably questioned by the activist community in the aftermath of the post-September 11th firing of DJ and long-time Community Affairs Coordinator David "Davey D" Cook. Though the station stated that economic considerations had forced it to let Cook go, many felt that he had been dismissed for programming decisions and on-air remarks construed as "unpatriotic" in light of the country's "earnest" mobilization for the War on Terror. (See "The controversial firing of Davey D," below)
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