WNIC drops morning team Kevin O’Neill, Lisa Barry, PD Cites PPM as the Reason

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Radio Facts: Clear Channel-owned WNIC (100.3) fired its “Breakfast Club” morning show hosts, Kevin O’Neill and Lisa Barry, after their airshift Monday morning.

WNIC is replacing them with a “very music-intensive” show, according to station operations manager Todd Thomas. He says it was a move prompted by the Arbitron PPM (portable people meter). “Looking at how PPM operates, we’re finding that a lot of music really moves the needle,” Thomas said. “With the morning show, we were going up against some of the juggernauts that we have in town, it was like David and Goliath, so that was the reason for the decision.”

WNIC’s morning show ranked No. 1 among listeners ages 35-64 over the holiday season, when it played Christmas music, but by February it was tied for 11th place in that demographic (for the overall, 12-plus demographic it ranked No. 14). Monday was almost exactly the 30th anniversary of O’Neill’s arrival in Detroit.

“The ironic thing was, without knowing what was going to happen, in the final break this morning I alluded to the fact that 30 years ago yesterday, April 4, was my first day on the air in Detroit,” said O’Neill, who was still a bit dazed. “Ten minutes later, I’m being marched down the hallway.”

It was a year ago that O’Neill, then on afternoons at the adult contemporary station, was tapped to replace Chris Edmonds when he was let go from the WNIC morning show. Edmonds is filling in at CBS-owned WOMC-FM (104.3), since Dick Purtan’s retirement last week.

“They’re good people at WNIC, I loved it there,” O’Neill said. He had hoped with the departure of Purtan from rival WOMC that he and Barry would have an opportunity to go after some of the veteran morning man’s listeners.

Radio stations increasingly are staffed by engineers pushing buttons to turn voice-tracked shows on, with few live bodies in the studio. “That’s radio, it’s changing by the minute,” said Breakfast Club co-host Barry. “They think it’s all about the music. I still believe in the power and necessity of local radio and connecting with people. Music they can get it from their iPod, their MP3 player. Can they get a connection from a human being who’s in their town, in their back yard?

“The thing I’m saddest about is, I’ve been on the air for 25 years. You connect with the listeners and make friends,” Barry said. She asks that her friends stay in touch with her online via lisabarry.net. Like most radio veterans, O’Neill is philosophical. He has worked at many stations over the years — WDRQ, Honey Radio, the old WMGC Magic Radio on 94.7, 102.7 Kiss Radio when it did oldies, WOMC in the ’80s, then Q95.5, WYCD, WDVD, and then WNIC.

“This has happened four times before, and I’ve always gone on to something better, so I’ll just stay positive,” O’Neill said. “I hope I can stay in Detroit because I love it here, but you never know.” [source]

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