92-Q No. 1 but losing ground

Radio and TV: WERQ-RM listening audience erodes after shake-up of morning show hosts.

November 17, 1999|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

WERQ-FM (92.3) retained its top spot among Baltimore radio stations for the three-month period ending Sept. 30, but a series of changes at the urban contemporary station, as well as the decreasing margin between it and runner-up WPOC-FM (93.1), suggests the longtime powerhouse may be hearing footsteps.

Ratings for the quarter just ended showed WERQ with an overall drop in listenership of nearly 5,000 listeners in an average quarter-hour, from 33,500 to 28,800. That's still enough to keep the station at No. 1, but only 2,200 listeners now separate it from WPOC. Last quarter, 92-Q finished with 8,000 more listeners in an average quarter-hour that runner-up WWIN-FM (95.9).

Last month, the station sacked morning-show host Brian Carter, just seven months after naming him to fill the shoes of the immensely popular Frank Ski, who abruptly left WERQ to accept a job in Atlanta. The station already had fired Carter's co-host, Shawna Renee, and Tony Boston, who had worked with Ski and initially survived the transition.

Since then, Illinois native Marc Clarke has been moved into the morning slot, as host of the "Big Phat Morning Show." His co-host is Chicago native Troy Johnson.

Pam Somers, general manager for Radio One's Baltimore stations (both WERQ-FM and WWIN-FM), declined to discuss why Carter was replaced, saying only, "We're constantly trying to do better. This morning show has an incredible energy and entertainment level for our listeners."

But Carter said he was told the morning show, under his stewardship, simply was not bringing in the numbers.

"In a nutshell, they told me that the morning show had been downtrending, and that my style of radio was not exactly what they were looking for," he said. "I was told there was no buzz on me. I think they expected me to pretty much follow the model of Frank Ski, which I found kind of difficult, because Frank was Frank, and I am who I am. I mean, his rise was phenomenal, he pretty much brought credibility to 92-Q."

Ski had been the morning show host at rival WXYV-FM (102.7) before new management let him go. He quickly signed on with WERQ, and that station soon vaulted to the top of the ratings heap. His failure to uphold those Ski-like numbers, Carter thinks, sealed his fate at the station.

"Coming behind somebody like Frank he had an eight-year head start," Carter says. WERQ "didn't want an interruption of what they had, and they wanted that [level of success] overnight. I don't think there were a lot of things in place, on my end or their end, to do that."

Changes at Radio One haven't been restricted to the morning team at WERQ. Other moves include: Tom Calococci, former program director at WERQ, has been promoted to East Coast director of programming for Radio One; Dion Summers, who had been assistant program director and host of the station's midday show, has been elevated to program director, with Tiana "Egypt" Sherrod taking over the midday slot; and Kathy Brown, program director at WWIN, will also serve as operations manager for Radio One's four Baltimore stations.

For the three months ending Sept. 30, here are the Arbitron ratings and audience share for listeners 12 and older for Baltimore's top 10 radio stations. Each share point represents about 3,600 listeners in an average quarter-hour:

1. WERQ-FM (92.3), 8.2

2. WPOC-FM (93.1), 7.6

3. WBAL-AM (1090), 7.2

4. WWIN-FM (95.9), 6.5

5. WQSR-FM (105.7), 5.4

6. WWMX-FM (106.5), 4.8

7. WLIF-FM (101.9), 4.4

8. WXYV-FM (102.7), 4.1

9. WHFS-FM (99.1), 3.9

10. WIYY-FM (97.9), 3.7

Telethon for access TV

The Baltimore Cable Access Corp. will hold its first telethon this weekend to raise money for community access TV in the city.

The telecasts, seen on Channel 5 on the city's TCI cable system, will air from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, according to Arthur Bugg, executive director of BCAC.

Bugg said hosts will include Bunny Reidel, executive director of the National Alliance for Community Media; Sandy Mallory, of WEAA-FM; Calvin Burnett, president of Morgan State University; Earl Richardson, president of Coppin State University; Sheila Dixon, City Council president-elect, and state senators Delores Kelley, Nathaniel McFadden and Clarence Mitchell IV.

BCAC needs volunteers to answer phones. Call (410) 383-5556.

NBC picks up comedy

"Battery Park," a half-hour comedy from Gary David Goldberg ("Family Ties," "Brooklyn Bridge" and "Spin City"), has been picked up by NBC as a mid-season replacement. The series, chronicling a diverse squad of police detectives working together in New York's Battery Park, stars Elizabeth Perkins as Capt. Madelaine Dunleavy and Justin Louis as head detective Ben Hardin.

MTV looks at hate crimes

MTV is not often celebrated for public affairs programming, but it deserves praise for its effort to help young viewers understand the horror of hate crimes tonight.

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