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Radio legends are off WECK as station deals with advertising losses

Alan Pergament

The hits keep on coming to local radio stations due to the advertising losses resulting from the outbreak of Covid-19.

Listeners to music station WECK (1230 AM, 100.5 FM and 102.9 FM) have noticed the recent absence of radio legends Danny Neaverth, Jon Summers and Harv Moore in a reorganization of the station lineup.

Listeners to 96.1 FM the Breeze (WMSX) have noticed midday host Juli Hinds has left the station.

DJ Anthony, the former evening host on KISS 98.5 (WKSE-FM) has confirmed last week's report that his job at the Entercom Radio station has been eliminated, which has led to an online petition to bring him back.

In addition, a couple of veteran off-the-air staffers have left their jobs with Entercom.

Let’s start with the news at WECK, the station locally owned by Buddy Shula. Shula confirmed that Moore, Summers and Moon Doggie are on furlough due to economic reasons from a downturn in advertising.

“My plan is to have them back on air as soon as possible,” wrote Shula. “They have all helped create the success that WECK is experiencing. Bobby O is temporarily doing our midday show. Cindy Chan has moved to afternoon drive from weekends.”

Shula said today those assignments were for last week and have since been changed.

Neaverth’s morning appearances with Roger Christian ended a few weeks ago.

The changes were explained this way in a Facebook post on the station page aimed at its listeners.

“For the safety of our staff, and because of the economic impact that has started to occur, I choose to place some of our cherished personalities on hold for a bit. I simply do not want to put anyone, or anything at risk with this horrible crisis going on.

“Just so you know, all your favorite WECK personalities are doing great, and are safe and healthy, and they all wanted me to tell you 'hello,' and that they miss you, as I'm sure you miss them.

“Rest assured, they will be returning on air when the crisis is over, and it is safe for their return.”

That may be true of Summers and Moore, but not for Neaverth.

In a telephone interview and a text message, the 81-year-old Neaverth said he hadn’t heard from Shula about how he was doing since leaving the station. He also questioned the idea his safety had anything to do with his being let go since he made his appearances on the morning show from his home.

“There would be no worry,” said Neaverth. “I could sit in my underwear and do what I’m doing (from home).”

Neaverth described his feelings about the changes this way: “Angry? No. Hurt? Yes. Not so much for me but for Jon Summers and Harv Moore, two of the most talented and nicest guys in broadcasting. In the current environment, most companies offer their employees an opportunity to take a pay cut or work less hours.

“We were always reminded that WECK was not like those big uncaring media companies. In my three years at the station, my role constantly changed. Less than a month ago I agreed to a new position that involved five days a week commentary, on-air conversations with morning host Roger Christian and TV interviews for station sponsors. My morning humor piece was called "I’ve been Thinkin’. "

“The suddenness of the change has left me with at least 12 very funny bits. I would be happy to read them personally to anyone who is interested as long as you remain 6 feet away and toss me a 12-pack of toilet paper.

“I think the biggest mistake the station has made is taking away the familiar voices and the occasional smiles that we need now more than ever. Jon, Harv and I will be OK, but I wonder about the station.”

Late Monday, Shula responded to Neaverth's remarks by calling them "dangerous and irresponsible to other legendary air staff working at WECK.

"While he did a three-minute per day segment in the mornings on WECK, from what he describes as his 'estate' in the morning, in his PJs, using the equipment I paid for and supplied, he says I should have offered to make pay cuts and cut hours to the other legendary personalities, not caring at all about what consequences the other DJs could have by breathing into a microphone. He never recommended a pay cut or cut hours for himself, ever.  In my mind, that is not a team player.

"Danny is the only personality I let go for economic reasons. The other legends of WECK will return when it is safe for their health. I wish Danny the best. I thank him for his service over the past few years at WECK."

The cuts at WECK and all the stations aren’t surprising since the radio business was under stress even before the current health and economic crisis and is under even more stress now.

While TV and newspapers have increased their audiences because more people are at home and interested in news, the radio audience has likely decreased because fewer people are in their cars, which is where many people listen.

As for Hinds, Mark Plimpton, who runs the Townsquare Media stations in Buffalo, confirmed she was let go. He added some part-timers were let go but a number of them remain.

“All moves were related to the Coronavirus,” wrote Plimpton in an email.

Now on to DJ Anthony, who was let go by the Entercom station 98.5. A sales assistant who had worked at the station since the 1980s also is gone and two front desk people and a person in promotions were furloughed.

Tim Holly, who runs the seven local Entercom stations, wrote in an email to the staff that “commerce has come to a near standstill and as result it is imperative that we reshape our business model to survive this catastrophic moment in time."

He said that led to the difficult decision to let go the popular DJ Anthony and put WGR-AM sports reporter Paul Hamilton on furlough. WGR is another Entercom station.

Under the name Anthony Black, DJ Anthony confirmed on Facebook his job was eliminated and wrote Western New Yorkers “always made me feel proud to be part of your daily lives.”

“Thank you, Buffalo,” Black wrote at the end. “I love you.”

The love was reciprocated with the start of a petition on that more than 1,200 people signed as of this morning of a goal of 1,500.

It would appear to be difficult for any petition to be successful because of Entercom’s financial position.

Its stock price closed at 83 cents Friday off of a 52-week high of $7.12.

The stock price of Townsquare Media closed Friday at $4.22 off a high of $10.34.

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