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Emmis Communications

Emmis Communications logo

Emmis Communications (NASDAQ: EMMS) is an American media conglomerate based in Indianapolis, Indiana. The company owns radio stations and magazines in the United States and Slovakia.


  • History 1
    • 1980s 1.1
    • 1990s 1.2
    • 2000's 1.3
  • Controversies 2
    • KLBJ 2.1
    • WQHT-FM 2.2
  • Company portfolio 3
    • Emmis Interactive, Inc. 3.1
    • Magazines 3.2
    • NextRadio app 3.3
    • Radio 3.4
      • Currently owned stations - Europe 3.4.1
      • Currently owned stations - United States 3.4.2
        • Austin, Texas
        • Indianapolis, Indiana
        • Los Angeles, California
        • New York, New York
        • St. Louis, Missouri
        • Terre Haute, Indiana
      • Former Emmis-owned radio stations 3.4.3
      • WorldBand Media HD Radio deal 3.4.4
    • Television 3.5
      • Former Emmis-owned television stations 3.5.1
  • Board of Directors 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6



In 1980, Emmis Broadcasting founder Jeffrey Smulyan purchased his first radio station, WSVL-FM Shelbyville, IN. In July 1981, Smulyan changed the format from country music to adult contemporary and renamed the station WENS. The station's quick success led him to purchase other radio stations throughout the country.

Around 1984, the company bought Magic 106 in Los Angeles, California; at the time, L.A. Lakers player "Magic" Johnson was an early spokesperson for the station. In early 1986, Emmis changed Magic 106 to Power 106 KPWR. Also in 1986, the company expanded as they purchased WAPP-FM (renamed WQHT) and WHN (now WEPN) in New York as well as WAVA-FM in Washington, D.C. from the Doubleday Broadcasting Company. Both KPWR and WQHT would pioneer the rhythmic format and go on to be Emmis' two flagship radio properties.

Emmis acquired five NBC radio stations in 1988 but sold two to avoid a duopoly.


In 1994, the company purchased WIBC and WKLR in Indianapolis from the Horizon Broadcast Corporation and WRKS in New York City from the Summit Communications Group. WKLR was changed from an oldies format to a classic hits format with the call letters of WNAP in September 1994.

Also in 1994, Emmis became a public company. The expansion continued as the company purchased numerous television and radio stations in the late 1990s.

In 1998, Emmis Broadcasting changed its name to Emmis Communications and moved into its current headquarters on Monument Circle in Indianapolis.


In 2003, Emmis appointed its first black VP/General Manager, Barry Mayo. He oversaw 98.7 Kiss FM, Hot 97, and WQCD (CD 101.9), all in New York City.

In 2005, Emmis changed the format of their first radio station from its long-term adult contemporary format to country, and the call letters were changed from WENS to WLHK. Emmis was also named one of Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For. In March of that year, Emmis Communications and 98.7 KISS-FM, NY celebrated Women's History Month by introducing their first annual salute to Phenomenal Women (also referred to as the Phenomenal Woman Awards).[1]

In January 2006, after 3 years in which Barry Mayo's New York station moved behind Power 105.1 as the second-tier rap station in New York, Mayo announced his departure from his post.

In 2006, Emmis flipped KZLA/Los Angeles to Adult Rhythmic Contemporary as "KMVN, Movin' 93.9". The move gives Emmis a companion station to complement KPWR. However, on April 15, 2009, KMVN switched to Spanish-language programming, KXOS, under a seven-year Local Marketing Agreement with Grupo Radio Centro of Mexico City.[2]

On June 9, 2009, Emmis announced it has formed a strategic alliance with StreamTheWorld, the radio industry's streaming technology and services company, to put all Emmis radio stations on a new streaming platform.[3]

On January 12, 2011, the share price of Emmis stock surged 42% as insiders speculated that the company could be close to selling off several of its radio stations. In their January, 2011 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company reported that it had the necessary cash to survive through February, 2011. "Absent asset sales, which the company is actively pursuing," Emmis attorneys stated in the regulatory filing, "the company believes it is unlikely it will be able to maintain compliance with the financial covenants after Sept. 1, 2011."[4]

On August 16, 2013, Emmis launched the NextRadio smartphone app on HTC One Android phones from Sprint.[5][6] A deal struck between the radio industry and Sprint facilitated the launch[7] which subsequently enabled FM radio support for the app on additional Android devices available on the Sprint wireless network.[8]


Most of the controversies involving Emmis Communications have involved its stations in the New York City market. Among them:


  • KLBJ's AM Morning Show has also been the focus of bigoted, and religious overtoned commentary by non-Austin resident Samuel Cox who is a retired Austin Police Department officer who in the past has said unkind words about African-Americans.
  • In 2009, Don Pryor, the host of the Austin, Texas affiliate KLBJ's Todd and Don Show, used the term "wetbacks" to describe Mexican-Americans..


  • WQHT-FM provoked a controversy in January 2005, a month after the Asian tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, by playing the Tsunami song entitled "USA for Indonesia", a parody sung to the 1985 tune "We Are the World." Listeners, politicians and civil rights groups protested in front of the station. Three persons associated with the production were suspended for two weeks, and two were terminated.
  • Also involving WQHT, there have been controversies involving slapping, indecency, and violence around the station's broadcast location. In 2004, as a result of continued indecency complaints, Emmis signed a consent decree with the FCC and paid a $300,000 fine.

Company portfolio

Emmis Interactive, Inc.

Current clients include: Astral Media, Renda Broadcasting, Greater Media, Corus Entertainment, Emmis Radio, and Lincoln Financial Media

Emmis Interactive was sold to Marketron in October 2012.[9][10]


NextRadio app

The NextRadio® smartphone app was developed by Emmis, with support from the National Association of Broadcasters, to take advantage of mobile devices with activated internal FM receivers.[11] NextRadio allows users of select FM-enabled smartphones to listen to live broadcast FM radio while receiving supplemental data such as album art, program information, and metadata over the internet.[12][13] Launched in August 2013 through a radio industry agreement with Sprint Corporation,[14] the app is available preloaded on select devices it is also available for download in the Google Play Store.[15]

The NextRadio app is powered by TagStation®, an Emmis-developed cloud data service for enhanced radio broadcasting.[16][17] TagStation allows broadcasters a web-based platform for managing supplemental content for delivery to the NextRadio app,[18] HD Radio receivers,[19] and connected car dashboards.[20]


Currently owned stations - Europe

  • Rádio Expres in Slovakia
  • Sláger Rádió in Hungary. Emmis Communications' Hungarian national radio station, Sláger, was taken off the air on November 18, 2009 because of the expiration of their broadcasting license. The license were given to another radio station, but Emmis went to court and won the trial on July 14, 2010.

Currently owned stations - United States

Austin, Texas
Indianapolis, Indiana
Los Angeles, California
New York, New York
St. Louis, Missouri
  • KFTK - 97.1 - News/Talk
  • KNOU - 96.3 - Classic Hits/HD2: Classical/HD3: Smooth jazz
  • KPNT - 105.7 - Modern Rock
  • KSHE - 94.7 - Mainstream rock
Terre Haute, Indiana

Former Emmis-owned radio stations

WorldBand Media HD Radio deal

Emmis announced on September 9, 2008 that it had teamed up with digital radio network WorldBand Media and would be using the "HD-3" subchannels to produce programming for the South Asian communities in Chicago (on WLUP), Los Angeles (on KPWR), and New York (on WQHT), and would include a combination of local and international content that should be available by mid-October 2008.[21]


In May 2005, Emmis announced its intent to sell some or all of the 16 television stations they owned at the time. In August 2005, the company announced the sale of nine television stations, as well as four more in October, an additional station in May 2006, another station in February 2007, and its final station in May 2008. Emmis no longer owns any television stations.[22]

Former Emmis-owned television stations

  • (##) – Indicates a station owned by Silver King Broadcasting prior to its acquisition by Emmis in 1998.
  • (¤¤) – Indicates a station owned by Lee Enterprises prior to its acquisition by Emmis in 2000.


Board of Directors

  • Jeff Smulyan - Chairman of the Board, President and CEO; former owner of Major League Baseball's Seattle Mariners
  • Susan Bayh - Visiting Professor, Butler University
  • Gary Kaseff - Executive Vice President and General Counsel
  • Richard Leventhal - President & Majority Owner of LMCS, LLC.
  • Peter Lund - Media Consultant and former President & CEO of CBS Television.
  • Greg Nathanson - former Television Division President
  • Lawrence Sorrel - Tailwind Capital Partners
  • Patrick Walsh - Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer


  1. ^ 98.7 KISS-FM (7 April 2005). "Emmis communications/98.7 KISS-FM celebrated Women's History Month by introducing its first annual salute to Phenomenal Women". Press Release (Emmis Communications).  The complete list of inaugural Phenomenal Woman Award winners (alphabetized by first name in the company's records) includes:
  2. ^ Emmis Press Release April 15, 2009
  3. ^ Emmis Press Release June 9, 2009
  4. ^ Emmis surges as industry anticipates radio sale
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "NextRadio: Delivering the Hybrid Radio Experience". 
  12. ^ "What We Do". 
  13. ^ O'Malley, Chris (September 14, 2013). "Emmis’ ‘NextRadio’ app mimics traditional FM radio". Indianapolis Business Journal. 
  14. ^ "Sprint customers to enjoy local FM radio on smartphones via FM radio chip". Sprint Newsroom. January 8, 2013. 
  15. ^ "NextRadio". Google Play Store. 
  16. ^ "What We Do – NextRadio and TagStation". 
  17. ^ "TagStation®". 
  18. ^ "TagStation". 
  19. ^ "Artist Experience®". HD Radio®. 
  20. ^ "iBiquity Digital and TagStation Unveil World's First Automotive Platform Converging Digital Radio Broadcasting and Mobile Application Technologies". PR Newswire. Jan 5, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Emmis partners with WorldBand Media to launch HD channels for South Asian communities". September 1, 2008. 
  22. ^ "News". TV Week. April 18, 2006. 

External links

  • Emmis Official website
  • Emmis Interactive Official website
  • 2004 consent decree with FCC
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