Skip to comments.Getaway Carr: Why WRKO should cut Howie loose
Posted on 07/12/2007 8:20:20 AM PDT by raccoonradio
Howie Carrs jump from WRKO-AM (680) to WTKK-FM (96.9) isnt a done deal just yet. Carrs new morning drive-time show is supposed to begin in October. But after the Herald reported this past Monday that Carr was poised to bolt WRKO, station spokesman George Regan released a statement hinting that WRKO might take legal steps aimed at keeping Carr from leaving or, barring that, at making his exit as unpleasant as possible.
He is a tremendous asset to WRKO and Entercom [WRKOs parent company] has every intention of retaining his services for many years to come, said Regan. Any report suggesting a change is incredibly premature.
If the station has a case, it probably hinges on a clause in Carrs contract that gives WRKO the right to match any competitors offer. But on Tuesday, Carr filed a pre-emptive lawsuit of his own, accusing WRKO of repeatedly declining to extend his contract, and arguing that any provisions aimed at keeping him from leaving for a competitor were legally unenforceable.
Whether the courts will agree remains to be seen. But even if they dont, WRKO should think twice about mounting a fight. Carrs relationship with WRKO seems to have been seriously strained even before this dust-up hit the headlines; now that things have reached this point, its hard to imagine the station and its marquee talent making peace.
One source with knowledge of the situation says that Carr whose populist conservatism runs the gamut from witty erudition to juvenile mean-spiritedness had accumulated a long list of grievances with WRKO. Among other things, he was concerned about the stations declining ratings; he felt management wasnt promoting or syndicating him effectively; and he bristled at being pre-empted for preseason Red Sox games, which WRKO began broadcasting this year in an awkward joint-broadcasting arrangement with WEEI-AM, Entercoms Boston sports station. Howies overall feeling is that its a poorly run operation, this individual, who works in Boston radio, tells the Phoenix.
This casts a new light on the alleged feud between Carr and Tom Finneran the exMassachusetts House Speaker who, after pleading guilty to perjury in a legislative-redistricting case, took over WRKOs morning-drive-time slot earlier this year. In March, the Herald turned this purported beef into a cover story, reporting that Carr (whos also a Herald columnist) was incensed after Finneran joked that he should be killed and stuffed in the trunk of Governor Deval Patricks car. At the time, I argued that the whole flap seemed to be a shameless publicity stunt. In retrospect, though, Carrs stagy wrath may have obscured genuine frustration: a strong morning host would have helped Carrs own ratings and market position by driving listeners to the station. But Finneran clearly wasnt ready to fly solo and hasnt been given a reliable sidekick to help him along.
More significantly, Carrs disenchantment and potentially imminent departure also raise questions about Entercom executive Jason Wolfe, who went from running WEEIs programming to directing programming for both WRKO and WEEI in early 2006 and has been considered something of a golden boy in local radio circles. Given WEEIs continued success, the underwhelming performance of WRKO under Wolfes watch is especially striking. Former hosts Scott Allen Miller and John DePetro are gone. Finneran is struggling in the morning drive-time slot, both in terms of ratings and in terms of establishing a compelling on-air persona. Its still not clear how splitting the Red Sox between WEEI and WRKO helps either station. And now Carr the stations name-brand talent is poised to bolt to its major competitor. (Wolfe and Julie Kahn, Entercom New Englands vice-president and market manager, did not return calls from the Phoenix.)
If and when Carr starts broadcasting from WTKKs studios, hell be going head to head with Finneran, which will make the ex-Speakers already dicey situation even more precarious. Itll make for an interesting battle because of the personal hostility between the two men, says Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine. But theres no question in my mind that Carr is the more accomplished. Being on the FM spectrum also stands to expand and diversify Carrs listener base, Harrison adds: FM talk is the coming wave, and new people might discover him who otherwise dont hang out on the AM dial. There are a lot of young people on the FM dial, a lot of women.
And lets not forget the bottom line. Carrs current salary at WRKO is unknown. But based on what comparable hosts have made here and elsewhere, its likely that he was at or over $300,000 and that WTKK plans to pay him significantly more. Nice work if you can get it.
I listened to WEEI almost around the clock until I got my Sirius satellite radio, and I'd say it wasn't so much the Patriots that "made" WEEI, but the Red Sox. While it's true that WEEI's Patriot content during the football season is outstanding and very compelling---thanks to Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie, mainly---I think it's safe to say that Sox content dominates WEEI's programming year-round. I can remember distinctly the Big Show, etc., discussing Sox off-season moves in depth while the Patsies were making their historic Superbowl runs.
WEEI still has a pretty good line-up; the exception being the terrible Dale & Holley show during mid-days. Glen Ordway's "The Big Show" is one of the best shows in Boston, and it's always a constant struggle for me in the afternoons trying to figure out which one to listen to---The Big Show or the Howie Carr show. And I think Mikey Adams is dynamite in the evenings on WEEI.
WRKO? Basically, except for Howie and the fact that I have to tune it in now for Sox games, the station is dead to me, a la Fredo Corleone.