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AM RADIO CHANGES MAY PAIR BULLDOG WITH BAUERLE

Tom Bauerle has verbally tangled with Hillary Rodham Clinton, but the outspoken WGR AM 550 radio morning man may soon have to spar with a new partner: the Bulldog.

In what's shaping up as a radio culture clash, Bauerle will apparently team with sports talker Chris "The Bulldog" Parker starting Monday, sources said, when WGR shifts to an all-sports format. Parker currently hosts a nightly sports talk fest on WBEN-AM 930.

Entercom Communications Corp. of Philadelphia, which recently took over ownership of both stations, is also switching the format of WBEN, sources say. It will drop sports and be strictly news/talk. Midday WGR talk host Clip Smith will apparently move to WBEN.

Greg Ried, vice president and general manager of the AM stations, would not comment on any of the proposed changes. But sources have told The News that Entercom hopes to make the format switch Monday, the day after the Super Bowl.

However, Ried has said that Entercom's goal is to "brand" stations with an identity.

Currently, both WGR and WBEN are billed as news/talk/sports stations, so the changes for listeners are shaping up this way: less local news, less local talk and more sports. News programming at WGR will be virtually gutted and the reporting staff will merge with WBEN.

Bauerle and Bulldog might mix, as one source at WGR said, like "oil and water."

Bauerle has long dominated the morning show at WGR with his in-your-face attitude and off-color remarks that earned national attention last week after his controversial interview with Hillary Rodham Clinton. However, Baurele might suddenly be thrust into the position of sharing a microphone with a sports talk host on a show focused only on sports.

Nationally syndicated sports talker Jim Rome is expected to move from WKBW-AM 1520, also owned by Entercom, to a noon time slot on WGR.

Chuck "The Coach" Dickerson is expected to stay in his late afternoon drive spot, to probably be followed by a nightly, local sports show hosted by Mike Maniscalco, currently a weekend host at WGR.

Entercom will end the news operation at WGR, a station with a 75-year tradition. The news staff of WGR will be moved to WBEN, and, sources say, WGR will virtually eliminate news on the air.

This is a major loss for local news coverage, as WBEN and WGR were the last commercial stations with full-time news staffs.

WBEN will now be the main Entercom news outlet in town. The big question is how many news staffers Entercom will cut from the merged departments, which right now numbers about 14.

"Entercom won't tell us anything and the news staff morale is devastated," said one station source.

WBEN will apparently stick closely to its current format, except for sports talk. Bill Lacy is expected to remain the WBEN morning host, followed by nationally syndicated talkers Dr. Laura Schlessinger and Rush Limbaugh. Local talker Sandy Beach should retain his late afternoon slot, perhaps to be followed by Clip Smith at night.

It is not known if the late night local talk show, currently hosted by Larry Hunter on WGR, will be retained by WBEN. The late John Otto made that late night talk show one of the most popular in Buffalo history.

Regardless, the emphasis on news should beef up the programming at WBEN, especially in the morning. WBEN could broadcast more detailed news reports all day long.

WGR's switch could be risky, especially at a time when the football season just ended and the Sabres hockey team is slumping.

The big question is whether an all-sports station can prosper without broadcasting games for the city's major league teams. The Bills games are on WGRF-FM 96.9 and the Sabres hockey games are on WHTT-FM 104.1.

That means WGR lacks the most essential programming that attracts most local sports fans.

Entercom has made some changes at a couple of FM stations. Dave Gillen was let go as program director at WMJQ-102.5, an adult contemporary station. He was replaced by Sue O'Neill. Also, WKSE-FM 98.5, a contemporary hits station, dropped mid morning host Van Dusen.

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