As a lot of sports fans in Toronto know by now, there was a big housecleaning at the FAN 590 yesterday. At least five on-air people were fired and a number of shows cancelled. The biggest change came in the morning, as Gord Stellick and Don Landry were not only removed from the morning show -- they were out-and-out fired. That's a huge shock -- these two have been at the FAN basically forever.
Also fired was mid-morning host Mike Hogan, although rumor is he could come back to do the Argos games. Hogan is a real loss for football fans who listen to the station, because he was the one guy you could count on for football coverage. Maybe the FAN is planning to get out of football in the future, as the station always bumps the Argos games anyway to make room for the Blue Jays.
Their regular newscaster Rick Ralph was also fired, as was Brian Angus. Also gone is The Game Plan hosted by Jack Armstrong and Eric Smith -- although both will remain at the station to do the Raptors coverage.
The only show not affected, yet, is Bob McCown's effort Prime Time Sports, although word is the show could be shifted from its current slot to the 3-to-6 spot. I think that's a mistake -- the show is getting decent ratings right where it is.
Bob was on the air yesterday and talked about the moves a little bit, calling it one of those days in radio. On Jack and Eric's show, they alluded to the bloodbath by playing a song from Goodfellas -- the one that accompanied those scenes near the end of the movie where they were showing all those dead bodies that were being found all over New York.
We don't know much yet about what is coming next. All we know is that this comes on the heels of the departure of Leafs Lunch from rival AM 640 a few days ago, along with the departure of Greg Brady. Brady moves from AM 640 to now work for the FAN. As a totally irrelevant aside -- I was at CHRW at the University of Western Ontario at the same time he was there. Just an interesting observation.
As for the morning time slot vacated by Landry and Stellick, Doug Farraway and Jeff Lumby will helm the morning show until the bosses figure out what the heck they were going to do with it and who the new host is. There have been all kinds of rumblings swirling for days that something big was going to happen, and there has been talk about George Stromboulopoulos possibly coming in, about possibly bringing Andrew Krystal back to Toronto, and all kinds of speculation. There's even stories floating about possibly getting former TEAM 1050 morning host Mike Richards back to Toronto. Right now he's at Calgary's Fan 960 and from all accounts doing very well in that slot. We'll have to wait and see.
At least the good news now for Stellick and Landry is the uncertainty is over. This shakeup speculation was out there for days, and it was like hearing trade speculation or rumors about coaches being fired. At least now they can get on with looking for their next job. Maybe satellite radio is their next stop, as it seems to be for everyone else.
News accounts of what happened are here, here, and here. A rundown of the day at the FAN can be found at Toronto Sports Media here.
This is by no means the biggest bloodbath in Toronto radio history -- the infamous TEAM 1050 closedown has to take its spot, and there are bound to be a few others. Certainly 640 has had their fair share of bloodbaths and changeovers (remember when they were MOJO Talk Radio for Guys?), and CFRB has gone through some serious bloodletting as of late. In fact, they fired a few more people a few days ago, too. I'll say this for the FAN: this is certainly the biggest changeover of personnel the FAN has seen since the launch of the all-sports format, which was tumultuous in itself because it threw a lot of deejays out of work.
I am not exactly sure why management felt they needed to make the changes they needed to make - the moves yesterday seemed really drastic to me for a station that has been as stable as the FAN has been over the years. I know for a fact that the station has been worried for some time about how old the audience is getting and have been looking for ways to seek a younger audience. Another concern I've read is that they want to broaden the morning show just a bit so that it's not all about sports all the time.
There has been some talk out there that the station needed some sort of jolt, that it wasn't as lively to listen to as it once was. The thing is -- there have been other changes to the FAN recently that have really sent the station reeling,.They got rid of the ESPN Radio programming overnight, for example, and they also got rid of the Late Night Vampire Norm Rumack a while ago, too. Now they just run repeats of the FAN's earlier shows late at night. I think the station really went downhill with those moves, frankly, and the loss of even more familiar voices is going to really hurt this station even more. I worry the FAN will soon be forced into doing what all-sports stations throughout North America have been forced to do -- turn their entire lineups over to syndicated sports-talk.
There was also a big controversy involving the FAN about Mike Wilner being suspended for challenging Cito Gaston too much in an interview he did, which hurt the FAN from a purely PR standpoint and gave the impression to a lot of people that the company wasn't backing its employees. I guess they value the baseball employees more than the radio ones.
I believe another larger issue is the state of the sports scene in Toronto. The FAN has been hurt for a number of years by the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs own the town and air their games over on the archrivals AM 640, but the station was able to compete by airing a lot of talk shows to talk about hockey and the Leafs. But with the Leafs in the toilet, there's far less interest in the Leafs than there used to be. In fact all the sports teams are in the tank in Toronto, and that has got to hurt the FAN. If interest in sports is down or the teams are all losing, fewer people will tune in to games on the radio or call in to rant and rave. Football in Toronto is in particular trouble with the sorry state of the Argonauts. Baseball interest is in even worse shape. The Blue Jays are at an all-time low point for fan interest thanks to years of non-contention, and that's the FAN's biggest sports property. No one wants to call in and talk about the Blue Jays or baseball.
I think the shakeup at the FAN sort of reflects the interest level of the fans in Toronto as far as sports is concerned at the moment. People are losing interest in sports in Toronto and it is because all these teams in Toronto are losing! That's the honest truth.And that sports malaise is bound to affect the FAN 590's bottom line in some way. They wouldn't have made these moves over there if things were rosy. All in all, I'm not sure I like seeing so many people lose their jobs in one day. Turmoil at radio stations is never good for listeners.