Firing of radio superstar ends long run
In a move that was somewhat expected, Hubbard Broadcasting’s WTMX-FM fired Kathy Hart Thursday after she went AWOL from the Eric & Kathy Morning Show.
As first reported by Robert Feder, the 53-year old half of the successful morning show on the Hot Adult Contemporary station was handed her walking papers after taking a leave of absence from the morning show earlier this spring. The reason why she left unexpectedly remains unexplained, as Hart never let her employers, co-workers, and fans what was going on.
Hart’s agent declined to comment on the news, and Hart herself has not commented. A few weeks ago, Hart did break her silence in August and said she would return to the airwaves soon in a terse statement, but said nothing else since. Hart continues to be paid through remainder of her contract, which expires in December.
Recently, reports surfaced on tension between Hart and her radio partner, Eric Ferguson. Reportedly, Ferguson and Hart ceased speaking to each other off the air and even had producers conveying messages to each other. Given these circumstances, it was clear the relationship between the two was beyond repair. Both had an annual salary of more than one million per year – but Ferguson reportedly made more than Hart and as Feder noted, may have been a source of antagonism between the two.
Pay equity has been a hot-topic in the media industry lately. Recently, Asian actors Grace Park and Daniel Dae-Kim left CBS’ Hawaii Five-O for this exact reason as they claim their pay wasn’t on equal footing as their white co-stars.
In a memo obtained by Feder, Hubbard Radio Chicago president Jeff England noted the show would continue with Ferguson and other contributors, and would keep everyone up on any up-to-date changes. For the moment, the program’s Twitter account has been renamed The Mix Morning Show, but still has the old @EricAndKathy Twitter handle.
First paired up in 1996, Eric & Kathy had been one of the most successful radio morning shows in the country, spawning copycats in other markets (remember the now-defunct Blaine & Allyson show on Detroit’s WDVD-FM?) Their success and dominance of young female demos generated millions of dollars over the years for then-parent Bonneville Communications and current owner Hubbard Broadcasting. For what it’s worth, the duo were inducted into the Radio Hall Of Fame. Eric & Kathy have also raised millions for several charities, notably Lurie Children’s Hospital through their yearly radiothon, which Hart did not attend this year.
Recent rating reports show Eric & Kathy – without Kathy, continued its success without missing a beat, still finishing first in the key female adult demos the show targets. Credit the show’s bench – or ensemble cast, consisting of Ferguson, Melissa McGurren, Brian “Whip” Paruch, Cynthia DeNicolo and John “Swany” Swanson for keeping the show on top.
Despite the show’s success, the Eric & Kathy show – and others similar to it – never appealed to listeners outside of its huge white-collar fanbase. It’s the type of program that never really contributed anything to the medium of radio – despite its “honor” by the Radio Hall Of Fame. The program’s success without Kathy Hart proves yes kids, you can draw listeners with content – no matter how good, innovative, stupid, repetitive, unoriginal, or banal it is. You can replace Eric and Kathy with Chuck Woolery and Kaley Cuoco and no one would know the difference. If Eric & Kathy were successful for the longest time, it certainly wasn’t because of Eric & Kathy, and as we all know, you can’t go broke underestimating the taste of the American audience.
Just look at the success of American Idol.