Morning team makes leap from 98 Rock to WHFS-FM

Pair couldn't agree to terms of new contract with WIYY

October 31, 2006|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,Sun reporter

Good morning. Kirk and Mark are gone.

There's been another changing of the guard in local radio. After nearly 11 years on Baltimore's 98 Rock (97.9 FM), morning hosts Kirk McEwen and Mark Ondayko weren't on the air yesterday. Mickey and Amelia, the afternoon hosts, have replaced McEwen and Ondayko in the station's morning time slot.

"Kirk and Mark elected to leave the station," said Dave Hill, 98 Rock's program director. Mc- Ewen's and Ondayko's five-year contract is up in February, but they could not agree on terms for a new contract with station management, Hill said. Contract talks ended Friday. The pair expect to be paid for the remaining three months of their contract but will not be on the air at WIYY-FM, a sister station of WBAL-AM.

"We wish those guys luck," Hill said yesterday. "They helped us build this radio station. We owe a lot to them."

The popular morning team isn't leaving the market, however. McEwen and Ondayko will become the new morning team at WHFS (105.7 FM), replacing the Junkies. The CBS Radio-owned station plans a news conference today to announce the debut of The KMS Morning Show, 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., beginning Feb. 1.

"They've been the No. 1 morning show in Baltimore," says Bob Phillips, senior vice president for CBS Radio/Baltimore. "We're thrilled to death to have them."

At 98 Rock, the long-time home of McEwen and Ondayko (who had teamed with the late Bob Lopez), the station heard from shocked and confused listeners yesterday, Hill said. On the station's Web site, the new morning team posted a farewell to their former colleagues.

"When we were kids we listened to nothing but 98 Rock. ... Kirk and Mark were the best of the best," wrote hosts Mickey and Amelia. "Thanks boys and God speed."

McEwen, 41, said yesterday he was sad to leave 98 Rock, where he started when he was 19. But his three-year contract with WHFS offers syndication possibilities and a morning-talk format. "It's pretty much just talking," McEwen said. "They aren't concerned with playing Guns N' Roses."

His counterpart, 43-year-old Ondayko, wished 98 Rock "the best of luck" but said he was also excited about possible syndication and working on a talk format.

"The CBS company just really offered the best opportunity to move forward," he said.

As is customary in the radio business, listeners are typically the last to know when a personality leaves a station.

"There's never a heads-up and never an explanation," Ondayko said. "I wish there was."

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