The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

06 January 2007

Tom Finneran Felony Conviction, WRKO Troubles, Boston


Sleazy Talk Deal Means Felon Avoids Punishment

*** Major Update Below, Finneran Hopes To Host Show While Keeping Biotech Job! ***

Despite the new felony conviction of a sleazy, unpopular former Democrat Party legislator, a key WRKO / Boston manager continues to dig in her heels on a dubious programming move, seemingly without regard for the damage it will do to the station.

Meanwhile, disgust over former Massachusetts House Speaker Tom Finneran's felony conviction yesterday continued to generate anger today, particularly over the light "punishment" received for his guilty plea on perjury charges.

Here's a newspaper editorial (and another here) that sums up the situation perfectly:

Somewhere in the definition of arrogance lies a propensity for saying things even the speaker knows aren't true, a tendency to intentionally overreach, even when it's not necessary, to remind everyone else that you can get away with anything.

That may be the best explanation for why Tom Finneran lied on the witness stand in a civil suit challenging a legislative redistricting passed by the House in 2001. Even in a town that has produced such paragons of arrogance as Billy Bulger and John Silber, Finneran's arrogance can be breathtaking.

Everyone knew Finneran's fingerprints were all over the redistricting map; that's how the redistricting process works. But, when called to testify about the action, he said he had no role whatsoever in designing the map in question.

That part of Finneran's testimony was so unbelievable that the judge questioned it in a footnote in the opinion ruling the new districts violated the civil rights of minority voters in some Boston neighborhoods. That footnote inspired an investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office and an indictment of the then-house speaker for perjury. The case was closed yesterday, with Finneran pleading guilty to obstruction of justice.

If not for WRKO's interest, however, Finneran really would take a hit, as he is losing his pension, right to vote, carry a weapon or run for office. In addition, his plum job overseeing the state's biotech council is now said to be on shaky ground.

As a result, it's really WRKO's Julie Kahn who is determined to ensure that Finneran escape punishment, as she's standing at the ready with a pot of gold to reward a notorious Beacon Hill crony.

This is despite Finneran's lack of talk radio experience, in fact, he's yet to do a single show on the increasingly- troubled station. Nobody knows if Finneran could last a month without realizing just how difficult it is to host a daily drivetime talk show, much less be entertaining or compelling. Most former politicians fail in talk radio for this very reason.

As an insider with many fellow crooks to protect on Beacon Hill, Finneran is the opposite of what one would consider a potentially successful host to be. Instead of taking on corruption, he'll be there to defend it, as a convicted felon himself.

For an example of what does work, look to WRKO's Howie Carr, (seen in this photo) who has spent decades skewering the very people Finneran protects, with the ratings to back up his rhetoric. He spent most of yesterday's show lambasting Finneran, with callers in full support of Carr's position.

That's why this deal, which would pay Finneran many times more than even experienced hosts could ever expect to make, appears dirty more than anything else. At the salary level on the table now, even the best potential ratings and revenue could never hope to make up for his high cost. Finneran may very well end up making more than Carr, which smacks of shady dealing in itself.

In addition, in a concession to his clear lack of attributes for hosting a daily morning drive show in a large market, Finneran will likely be paired with a co- host. That brings the overall cost into the stratosphere, up to Air America levels.

Beyond the sleazy Finneran deal, Kahn has been busy rearranging WRKO's schedule to fit her own liberal political beliefs, rather than maintaining the conservative programming that has served the station very well for years. That's despite the utter failure of libtalk in the Boston market.

One WRKO host even switched his previous on- air opposition to moonbat Governor Deval Patrick to a supportive stance, which probably saved his job, at least for the short run. However, the moment his views conflict with Kahn's, even by accident, expect him to go as well.

Clearly, at no point is there any consideration of what would build an audience or an advertising base, it's simply one of the nation's worst radio managers forcing her own will upon a listenership that is already scrambling for alternatives.

Due to her clear lack of programming expertise, Kahn has yet to learn what will be a painful future lesson: you can't force an audience to listen to what are your own personal tastes.

Julie, if you have any questions about this, simply contact the many former Air America executives who are now busy clogging unemployment lines in New York City.

UPDATE: Boston Globe now reports Finneran will likely lose the biotech position:

Thomas M. Finneran, the former speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives who pleaded guilty yesterday to obstruction of justice, will likely lose his $416,000 a year job as president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council after its board of directors meets Monday to decide his future, according to a person familiar with the board's discussions.

Finneran is hoping to keep his post as the state's top biotechnology lobbyist despite pleading guilty to a felony, said another source who is close to him. Allies and legislators have been calling board members to express their support for Finneran.

But the guilty plea makes Finneran too much of a liability to keep as spokesman for an industry dealing with important regulatory and public-relations issues, said the source familiar with the board's discussions. The 20-member panel, which includes executives from biotechnology and drug companies with offices in Massachusetts, is ultimately expected to ask Finneran to resign.

Finneran is in discussions with the radio station WRKO to host a talk show, a job he was hoping to take while keeping his biotech post, said a person close to the former speaker.

Amazing: Finneran hopes to "phone in" the radio job while keeping the biotech position! Apparently he has no concept of prep time or what it might take to pull off an entertaining daily show. This is already shaping up to be a major disaster.

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Top image: WaPo, bottom: Boston Herald


  • I thought I'd read that Finneran had done a fill in at WRKO or maybe WBZ
    so he may have some VERY slight
    radio experience. Though yes, talk
    radio can sometimes throw someone on who's never done talk radio before,
    based on their reputation elsewhere,
    and miracles are expected. Franken...

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 06 January, 2007 20:11  

  • The point is that he could easily fizzle out after a few weeks or so and WRKO would be stuck with a huge contract. This is a high risk / low potential reward kind of deal.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 07 January, 2007 02:29  

  • Yes, it would be a huge risk/money waster if that were to happen.

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 07 January, 2007 16:26  

  • Fibberan's going to pull down more than 800 Large?

    By Blogger Dave, at 08 January, 2007 11:58  

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