Thursday, October 16, 2008

Troubled economy spurs cuts at WRKO and WAAF

The struggling economy is starting to cause some major changes and turmoil for local radio stations. And, this could be just the beginning.

The ongoing recession in the advertising market and now the tanking stock market are hitting hard at the publicly-owned media congloms such as Entercom which today announced layoffs in its Boston cluster.

Among Entercom on-air staffers let go were WRKO AM 680’s midday host Reese Hopkins who was with the Talk Station since last December. He’s being replaced by syndicated conservative pundit Laura Ingraham whose show aired on the rival WTKK 96.9FM since 2000. (Ingraham was bumped to late Sunday nights a couple weeks ago when WTKK added a new late night snow hosted NYC-based Guardian Angels founder and WABC/NYC personality Curtis Sliwa.).
WRKO AM 680 is now down to two local weekday programs – Tom Finneran in the AM Drive and Howie Carr in the PM drive. The rest of the day is filled out with syndicated conservative shows(Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage, Jerry Doyle).

In addition to Hopkins, WRKO executive producer and Finneran's producer Andy Strecker and WAAF 107.3FM’s morning show “Hillman” producer Dave "Super Producer" DiGando were among at least a dozen staffers let go today. Hopkins' producer Bill Cooksey escaped the ax as he doubles as the executive producer for the Celtics Radio Network(on sister station WEEI).

No known changes over at Entercom’s sports talker WEEI AM 850 but it will be interesting to see what will happen with the on-going pricey sports portal project where the company has been investing heavily over the past few months. Also, WEEI’s afternoon ringmaster Glenn “Big O” Ordway is up for contract renewal at year’s end and with Entercom’s CEO David Field declaring a companywide wage freeze in an internal memo yesterday, things could get really dicey on Guest Street.

Here’s WRKO’s press release on the changes in the midday slot which also mentions tough economic situation :

WRKO Begins Airing The Laura Ingraham Show Starting Tomorrow

Boston, MA (October 16, 2008) – WRKO AM 680 today announced that it will begin airing The Laura Ingraham Show on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. beginning tomorrow, October 17th. Ingraham, whose show is syndicated by Talk Radio Network Enterprises, will replace Reese Hopkins. The Laura Ingraham Show is now ranked the 5th largest syndicated show according to Talkers Magazine with over 300 affiliates nationwide. Ingraham has affiliation in 21 of the top 25 metro markets and 42 of the top 50 metro markets.

As the most-popular female radio show host in the country, Ingraham has catapulted to the top of the industry in her seven-year on-air career. According to Talkers Magazine, it is ranked the 5th largest syndicated radio talk program in the United States , and is distributed by Talk Radio Enterprises.

The conservative host is also a regular contributor on the Fox News Channel, where she is the permanent substitute for Bill O'Reilly on The O'Reilly Factor. Ingraham is the author of three books, including The Hillary Trap and Shut Up & Sing. Her most recent book Power to the People debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List. As a Connecticut native and graduate of Dartmouth College , Ingraham's New England roots run deep. She received her law degree from the University of Virginia and afterward served as a Supreme Court law clerk and practiced white collar criminal defense law.

“I am honored and humbled to be joining the legendary WRKO, with its booming signal and unsurpassed reputation for on-air excellence,” said Ingraham. “For several years, Boston has heard me at night, but being on ‘RKO live every weekday morning is thrilling. Legions of new listeners will have the chance to laugh and learn along side with me as we fight for our country's political, economic and cultural future. My dad grew up outside Boston , and my oldest brother and his family settled here, so in many ways this feels like I'm coming home.”

“Reese did an excellent job for us and I certainly wish him well going forward,” said Jason Wolfe, Vice President of AM Programming & Operations at Entercom New England. “These are challenging times for our industry and we need to adjust accordingly. Having said that, Laura Ingraham is one of the truly outstanding radio broadcasters in the country today, and the success of her program speaks volumes about her. She’s got strong ties to Boston and New England , has tremendous brand equity in this market and will be a fabulous asset to the WRKO programming lineup.”

BRW Notebook :

Hitting the road : Paul Kelley has resigned as the GM of Nassau-owned classical WCRB 99.5FM this week. Kelley has been hired to manage stations in Virginia for Saga Communications. Prior to being named WCRB's GM in December 2006, Kelley was GM for Nassau's Frank-FM(WFNQ-FM) in Manchester, NH. His resume also includes a stop at WRKO where he worked as a local sales manager.


Bubba's BBQ said...

I can't believe they got rid of Reese and kept Finneran. No wonder they are tanking. And Laura Ingraham is no bargain either. I guess I won't be listening to RKO till noon now.

Chris said...

The best news of all is that Howie Carr will have the last laugh at Entercom's expense. You'll recall that Entercom pretty much held Howie at bay, forcing him back under their umbrella and keeping him away from rival 96.9. Now, with a contract that is as iron-clad as can be (thank you, Entercom), Howie happy should hold his employer to every single penny of that contract. I really is a hoot to see Entercom pretty much throw the pie right at their own faces with this one.