Morning radio listeners aren't going to have Allan Prell to kick around much longer.
Prell, whose morning call-in talk show has been a fixture on WBAL-AM (1090) since 1982, has told management he wants to scale back his work at the station. Beginning in November, once the World Series is over, Prell will move into the 8 p.m.-11 p.m. weeknights slot.
Also sometime that month, WBAL will begin Saturday night broadcasts of Prell's syndicated "The Movie Show on Radio," with Max Weiss and Doug Roberts, which currently airs on 68 stations nationwide.
"I have this syndicated show that has gone very well the past 17 months," said Prell. "With the morning program, that meant me working six days a week. What it really gets down to is, I'll be working less.
"The pressures in major market radio are overwhelming," he added. "There are tremendous expectations to live up to. ... I was really feeling it. I was physically and psychologically worn out."
Moving to the evening slot will allow Prell to cut back significantly on his workload. Because so many weeknight evenings on WBAL are taken up with Orioles baseball, Terps basketball and other sporting events, Prell estimates he'll be doing about 100 shows a year.
He'll also be doing the evening show from a studio at his Northern Virginia home, helping to lessen the pace and the pressure even more.
Jeff Beauchamp, WBAL's vice president and general manager, says the station has yet to settle on someone to fill Prell's 9 a.m.-noon slot.
"Allan's been here 17 years, and he has a loyal following," Beauchamp said. "We're not just going to put anybody on. One thing we do know, we're not going to go with syndicated [programming]. We think the way to handle this is with local programming, so the community can talk about issues they care about."
Beauchamp said Prell has agreed to continue with the morning show until his replacement is found.
Johnson leaving WMAR
Even as staff at WMAR, Channel 2, consider the buyout proposal offered by station management last week, the work force at Baltimore's embattled ABC affiliate is beginning to shrink.
Friday, morning weather forecaster Veronica Johnson marked the end of her three-year stint at the station. She had come to WMAR from WABC-TV in New York, at least in part because she wanted to raise her family in Baltimore.
"WMAR-TV is going through some difficult financial times right now, and I felt it was best to move on," Johnson said, adding she had hoped to have her contract with WMAR renewed but was unprepared when station management offered what she called a "substantial" pay cut.
"I knew that certain anchors were being asked to take pay cuts," she said, "but I was blindsided by the massiveness of what I was being [asked to accept]. ... I just love this town, and it's one that I would just really hate to leave. We just weren't able to work out anything at WMAR."
"It's unfortunate that we couldn't come to an agreement with Veronica," says WMAR Station Manager Drew Berry. "She is a tremendous talent, we think that she will do well wherever she ends up, and we wish her good luck."
Johnson said she does not have another job lined up but hopes to remain in the area. And she remains philosophical about being one of the earliest casualties of WMAR's efforts to streamline its operations.
"I know the nature of the business," she said. "I know that timing is everything. Unfortunately, I think that I just happened to fall on the sword at this point. I'm keeping a very level head, keeping my sense of humor, and seeing what transpires."
Shows got the green
MPT's just-completed August pledge drive raised $529,000 for the station -- a smidgen better than the goal of $510,000.
The best show at prying open the pocketbooks of MPT viewers: "Suze Orman's the Courage to Be Rich," which raised nearly $75,000. Of course, this begs the issue of how people can become rich when they keep handing their money over to MPT ...
Other big draws included a marathon broadcast of "Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields" ($52,000), "Spirit: A Journey In Dance, Drums and Song" ($41,386), a "Jerry Baker Year 'Round Gardening Specials" marathon ($35,065) and "Ipi-Ntombi -- An African Dance Celebration" ($12,322).
Among new shows, a "Nature" program about Koko, the gorilla who has learned to communicate through sign language, raised $19,000.
Tune in `Yard Sale'
Weekend bargain hunters may already be familiar with "Weekend Flea Market," the Sunday morning radio program that, since 1994, has offered listeners the chance to sell their curios and other treasures over the air.
The program airs 7-8 a.m. on WCBM-AM (680).
But this Sunday, hosts Jay Harris and Bob Jansen (aka The Antique Man) are adding a new wrinkle: from 6-6: 30 a.m. Sunday, they'll be taking the act to TV, as "TV Yard Sale" gives it a go on WMAR, Channel 2.
Harris, who is buying the time from WMAR, says he hasn't committed to any future TV ventures. "We're going to see how it goes, see if the public likes it and if we like it," he says.