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WQAM's issues with Joe and Marc

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One station walks on air




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It has been a thoroughly uneventful 11 days at the WQAM zoo, unless -- of course -- you count Hank Goldberg's hiatus, the parking lot incident that led to it, four firings, rumors of a Howard Stern pursuit and a scandal involving pictures of WQAM hosts Marc Eisenberg and Joe Castello with naked women popping up on the Internet.


But you know what?


No matter what controversy and misfortune befalls WQAM, Fox Sports Radio 940 never capitalizes. And even though local businessman Carl Foster insists he's close to finalizing a deal with ESPN Radio to bring a third all-sports station to the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market, keep this in mind:


Nobody has legitimately challenged WQAM yet, and I'm beginning to think it's never going to happen, despite the nuttiness that goes on there.


Oh, WQAM has had challengers, but they have been half-hearted at best.


First, there was Tony Calatayud's ill-fated and ill-financed 1700 The Fan, which couldn't lure rights to any of the local teams and switched to Spanish religious programming.


Then, WRFX-940 came along, but parent company Clear Channel's only local pro team (the Heat) was so unimpressed, it insisted its games air on sister station WIOD, which otherwise doesn't carry sports.


WRFX has talked a good game, but don't be fooled: Its priority is making money. That explains the cheap, syndicated lineup that features only two hours a day hosted by an actual employee ( Jorge Sedano).


The preoccupation with the bottom line is why WRFX sold its morning show to Foster until January and now simulcasts Dan Sileo's show out of Orlando during that day part.


Just as Sedano was beginning to develop a following, WRFX sold its valuable 3 p.m.-6 p.m. block to the highest bidder: WTZA personality Greg Lemega and former WRFX morning co-host John Weiner. They begin Monday and will face long odds in drawing listeners from Jim Mandich and Goldberg, who returned to the air Tuesday.


Nothing against Lemega and Weiner, but it's difficult to take an all-sports station seriously when it doesn't even use its own employees for the key afternoon drive time.


Sedano was good enough to be hired by Fox Sports Radio for a weekly national show (2 a.m.-5 a.m. Saturdays), but apparently not valued enough by his bosses to get the 3-6 p.m. slot on 940. Instead, he has been relegated to 6 p.m.-8 p.m., which is difficult to understand.


WRFX could have made a splash by hiring former Dolphins linebacker Bryan Cox, who impressed as a rookie studio analyst on ESPN2 last season and has expressed interest in doing a talk show locally. Or WRFX could have made a run at WQAM's Orlando Alzugaray, who's opinionated and well-prepared.


But those options would have been costly.


Since it's not my checkbook, I can't blame Clear Channel for wanting to make a buck. But don't let the WRFX folks suggest they're a serious challenger to WQAM.


Until they acquire rights to a local team, hire an announcer with any real name recognition and stop selling air time to people off the street, they're not going to make much of a dent.


In the most recent ratings rook, WQAM ranked 17th among all listeners from 6 a.m. to midnight, with a 2.6 share. WRFX was tied for 31st, with a 0.5. In the coveted male 25-to-54 demographic, WQAM was third with a 4.8, while WRFX was 25th with a 0.8.


In the meantime, Foster said Thursday he has finalized a contract with investors -- whom he declined to identify -- as well as ESPN Radio to create a third all-sports station in the market. But it won't be definite until Foster strikes a deal with a local station, perhaps WAXY-790.


The station would carry a mix of local and ESPN Radio programming, including Dan Patrick's 1 p.m.-4 p.m. show.


All the while, WQAM general manager Greg Reed can sit back and laugh as he mulls a run at Stern's morning show. No matter what happens at his station -- the Scott Ferrall disaster, the pictures-on-the-Internet scandal -- WQAM remains the market's 800-pound sports gorilla, with big-name hosts, three of the market's pro teams and the University of Miami. Try as it might, WQAM can't mess it up.




WQAM will use Sporting News Radio programming to replace Eisenberg and Castello, who were fired Wednesday after Internet photos of them posing -- fully clothed -- with naked adult entertainers in WQAM's studio last September came to light.


Foster's idea of leasin a bunch of time on WAXY and once again making it's great signal into a competitor to WQAM is interesting. He has money, loves the Marlins and knows the best sportsradio property in SoFla is the Marlins. We could see a new home develop quickly.


At least we will get a third station with ESPN Radio, FIU, the Morning Bullpen, and possibly the Marlins when WQAM's ontract ends and they can't afford the price. :thumbup

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