In radio, you don’t generally fire one program director and bring in a new one to stand pat. Especially when you’re a relatively new market manager. Those things are done to change course.
So I have to wonder what’s going on at WFNI-AM 1070, better known as The Fan.
Charlie Morgan, who took the helm for Emmis Communication Corp.’s four stations (WIBC-FM, WFNI-AM, WYXB-FM and WLHK-FM) in September, told me recently, “It’s not nearly as dramatic or ominous as everyone makes it out to be.”
I guess that depends on your point of view. I’m guessing Kent Sterling feels it’s pretty ominous, since he was fired suddenly as program director of The Fan and WIBC earlier this month. Sterling had been with Emmis since March, 1993, so he was no flavor of the month.
To his credit, Sterling had nothing bad to say about his former employer, stating simply, “Those guys want to build their own team, and I’m not on it. I was the coach under the previous regime, and I understand that.”
Sterling called the meeting between he and Morgan “a surprise and a little hazy.”
That’s not all that’s a little hazy. The future of The Fan—and its marquee talent—must be put in that category.
Let’s start with this; The afternoon show hosted by Indianapolis Star sports columnist Bob Kravitz and former Reebok executive Eddie White celebrated its second anniversary Jan. 7.
Anniversaries generally mean contract renewal time. I’ve learned that much from Jimmy “Mad Dog” Matis, who was terminated this month by Clear Channel’s WFBQ-FM 94.7.
If I’m a relatively new market manager, bringing in a new program director, I don’t think I’m extending the contract of two of my highest paid and profile employees.
Not without an evaluation from the new program director. After all, why am I bringing this guy in to begin with? Answer: To evaluate the station’s talent and direction.
Alan Furst, Emmis’ new director of talk programming, and David Wood, The Fan’s new program director, will have lots of input on whether Kravitz and Eddie are with The Fan long-term.
Furst and Wood assumed their new duties Jan. 11. I’m guessing they know where the men’s room is by now and where to get a good sandwich or slice of pizza for lunch downtown. I bet they’re just about ready to get down to business.
One thing is certain, long-term contract or not, Kravitz and Eddie will be in place at least through the Super Bowl, and probably a bit longer. With the Indianapolis Colts on a run, and this town going crazy for Colts coverage, Morgan would be a fool to make a change now. And Morgan is no fool.
And there’s this: JMV. Radio sources keep telling me JMV is headed to Emmis. The former afternoon host of The Drive with JMV on Clear Channel’s WNDE-AM 1260 certainly knows his way around a broadcast room.
“At this point, I have no openings I could consider JMV or anyone else for,” Morgan told me when I asked him about that scenario.
I believe him. At this point, there are no openings. But with no contracts weighing Eddie and Kravitz down, they could blow away on a gentle spring breeze.
Speaking of the spring, that’s when I’m guessing JMV’s non-compete contract with Clear Channel runs out. Clear Channel officials confirmed for me that JMV does have a non-compete contract. They wouldn’t tell me when it expires, but almost every source in radio told me they generally last six months.
Hmmm. JMV suddenly quite his gig with WNDE in November. Seems like kind of a foolish move for a man with one child to support and another one on the way. JMV is lots of things, but he’s no fool either.
The last time I talked to him, he told me he wanted to lay low for a while. I suspect his hibernation will end in May.
And what about Dan Dakich? The former IU basketball player and coach occupies The Fan’s 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. slot. Morgan professes to love his show. Of course, he professes the same thing about Eddie and Kravitz’s show too—to me anyway.
But, you know, in this region, you don’t take firing a guy with IU ties that run as deep as Dakich’s lightly.
Even a new program director knows that much.