The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

05 January 2007

Boston, WRKO, Tom Finneran's Guilty Plea


Crooked Politician May Be Dumped On Talk Radio

*** Update Below: Finneran now a convicted felon, WRKO host Carr attacks Finneran on-air ***

Let's get this straight: a tired, sleazy former Massachusetts Democrat legislative leader with a notorious "insider" reputation who just pled guilty to federal perjury charges (today!) is now ready to be forced upon an unwilling conservative talk radio audience. What gives?

That's the sad outcome likely awaiting fans of Boston's WRKO- AM, some of whom have been holding out hope that the station's recent self- destructive kick could somehow be stopped before it is too late.

If former House of Representatives Speaker Tom Finneran is in fact hired to take over morning drive at the station, despite having no experience holding down a daily talk show, expect WRKO's remaining listeners to take a hike. (See important disclosure note in the comments section)

How is talk radio compatible with a career hack who has spent his life protecting and promoting the very cronies the station has successfully taken on for decades? It's like oil and water.

If WRKO's interest in him seems bizarre, join the club. Beyond one stubborn manager's insistence that the inexperienced and unproven former politician take a key morning drive slot, there is virtually no public call, much less a potential audience, for a Tom Finneran talk show.

Making the situation even more hard to comprehend is the fact that Finneran reportedly wants a substantial pay package, one which would likely top the $540,000 he currently receives as head of the Bay State's Biotechnology Council.

That is at least five times what the current morning drive host, Scott Allen Miller, is thought to make and not even in the ballpark of rational industry norms for such a position.

How is an unproven non- talker in a position to ask for this kind of money? Beyond Air America, who would be crazy enough to give it to him?

Meanwhile, the biotech council is currently weighing whether to even keep Finneran in their employ, but a new Boston Globe story indicates that he may very well hang on after all.

The very public negotiations have been a source of embarrassment for WRKO, a once- proud megatalker that has been torn to shreds in the past several months by Julie Kahn, a station executive who lacks any real talk radio programming experience whatsoever.

But the weirder Kahn's moves appear, the more she seems to dig in her heels, despite her lack of expertise. It's a triumph of ego over ability.

In fact, WRKO's rapid implosion has been so unusual and shocking to watch that it will be the subject of an upcoming Radio Equalizer follow- up report. While the station's mess has been the talk of the industry for several months, the station's parent company has yet to intervene. But that could change at any time.

In the meantime, when will radio managers learn they simply can't force bad programming down the throats of their soon- to- be- former listeners? When they are finally forced into the unemployment lines?

Above all, simply because they have nowhere else to go, why should sleazy criminals from the world of politics be dumped onto the talk radio business? What have we done to deserve this destructive force?

UPDATE: Stubborn as a mule, Kahn still continues to press for Finneran, despite his lack of experience or known abilities in this arena. More on the plea deal here.

Finneran is now officially a convicted felon and there are conflicting newspaper reports on the fate of his biotech job:

Finneran guilty plea may KO job, pension, law career

By Dave Wedge
Boston Herald Chief Enterprise Reporter
Friday, January 5, 2007 -

Disgraced former House Speaker Tom Finneran pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice today avoiding jail but thrusting his job, pension and future career as an attorney all into jeopardy.

Finneran admitted his guilt - and apologized for it today - in federal court. The guilty plea means:

- He must serve 10 months of unsupervised probation.

- He loses his right to vote and carry a gun.

- He agreed to not run for political office for five years.

- He must pay a $25,000 fine, which his lawyer said he would pay today.

The deal will also require a referral to the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, which will disbar him, or at least suspend the longtime lawyer’s right to practice law, a source close to Finneran said.

The felony conviction also means Finneran will lose his $2,575-a-month state pension, which he earned through 26 years of public service. Under state law, a government employee’s pension can be cut off if he is convicted of a felony connected to his job. Finneran’s admission of guilt stems from misleading testimony he gave in a civil trial over the drawing up of legislative districts in 2001 while he was House speaker.

His $500,000-a-year lobbying job with the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council also appears in jeopardy. MBC officials declined comment last night, but sources said the board was caught by surprise and is not pleased with the outcome of the case. Finneran had long maintained his innocence and vowed to fight the charges when he stepped down as House speaker and took the MBC president’s job in 2004.

Finneran, who is expected to land a plum talk-show host gig, could continue lobbying since there are no state laws barring convicted felons from being registered lobbyists, officials said.

Finneran, holding back tears, told the federal judge today he is sorry for what he did.

“I embarrassed myself. I shamed myself. I apologize to you ... I apologize to my constituents and I apologize to the people of Massachusetts,” he said.

Boston Globe says the biotech council will wait until at least Monday to decide whether to fire him.

Meanwhile, WRKO's Howie Carr and his callers are busy blasting Finneran on the air during Friday's show.

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Top Finneran image: Boston Globe library picture, bottom image: Boston Herald


  • Disclosure note: your Radio Equalizer has in the past worked at WRKO as a fill-in host. Overall, I've been an employee of Entercom, WRKO's owner, during two different periods of time.

    Despite this background, I have decided that WRKO's situation has simply become too dire to ignore any longer.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 05 January, 2007 00:29  

  • The Herald says that Todd Feinburg will do 9-noon until a permanent replacement for DePetro can be found. At night: if there is no Celtics or
    Red Sox game, Savage airs at 7 pm
    followed by Jerry Doyle. If there's a game, Savage airs at 10 or just after
    game ends.

    Interesting situation yesterday:
    as word started getting out about
    WRKO possibly grabbing Finneran
    what with the plea deal, WRKO's
    Howie Carr was bashing the ex-
    Speaker, saying he should have gone to jail--and at one point a poll on
    Howie's page of the WRKO site said
    91 per cent of listeners agreed with him.

    One caller to Howie said, "Here you are bashing him, and he may soon be one of your comrades soon." Howie laughed, "That's not a word I want to use!" (sounds too Commie!)

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 05 January, 2007 04:54  

  • "I have decided that WRKO's situation has simply become too dire to ignore any longer"

    I would imagine you decided this after WRKO decided that they wouldn't be needing your services again.

    By Blogger Elmonica, at 05 January, 2007 06:36  

  • Though I think this may...or may not have anything to do with the subject matter, but don't you think Entercom spent FAR TOO MUCH money to switch the Red Sox flagship from WEEI to WRKO?

    I mean, their news department is gone--leaving only Fox News Radio at top hour and little if any local news. This now leaves everything to CBS' WBZ 1030. I hate to say this, but WRKO is becoming like WOR--except for Savage (when they aren't airing sports) RKO is a shadow of its former self.

    This situation with the ex-MA speaker reminds me of a CT-Stan TV blooper. In the 1980's WVIT channel 30, hired former gubernatorial candidate Toby Moffett to do the news. At the time, 'VIT was owned by Viacom--hence the calls--and was an also ran to WFSB-3 and WTNH-8, this despite cable catching on in the decade.

    Of course it's now an NBC O&O and did make some strides in their news coverage. Oh, how did it workout with Moffett? Wouldn't know myself as I didn't watch 30 despite having cable briefly in 1986--lol!

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 05 January, 2007 07:41  

  • PW, I remember Moffett getting hired AFTER Joe Lieberman as CT Attorney General and then Gov. William "Governor Who" O'Neill screwed Moffett out of his primary challenge to O'Neill by stuffing the ballot box in Waterbury, CT, and Lieberman waited out the Statute of Limitations before indicting, trying, and convicting an O'Neill aide of 43 counts of vote fraud.

    Dishonest Democrats then, and we have a majority of Dishonest Democrats now.

    WRKO is just doing a political payoff. It is like when Mario Cuomo was hired as a talk show host. Like Cuomo, this Democrat bagman will bomb, too.

    By Blogger PCD, at 05 January, 2007 07:57  

  • Elmonica:

    Actually, I should have written this some time ago.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 05 January, 2007 10:52  

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