December 10, 2010

Clear Idiocy

Yesterday, Clear Channel fired Rocco DeMaro - host of the "Pirates Extra Innings" postgame show on WPGB - effective immediately. I would normally use the phrase "announced the firing" but in the corporate radio version of a text message breakup, they simply said nothing and removed all references to DeMaro's show from the WPGB web site. This is an apparent cost-cutting move so it's uncertain if the show will continue at all in the 2011 season.

I listened to Rocco's show on the first night I moved to Pittsburgh in August 2008. The Pirates had lost 11-2 in St. Louis on a Wednesday. Jason Davis got rocked and the offense couldn't score. Boom, postgame show, three seconds of airtime. Imagine if your job was to talk about that game for two hours.

Yet Rocco always found ways to generate interesting content. He scored interviews with nationally known analysts on a regular basis. He analyzed the major league team, the minor league teams, draft prospects, a never-ending string of unimportant transactions, strategy, statistics, and had people calling in on all these points. We know that most of this city's media members either criticize every Pirates move without thinking or implicitly endorse every move to curry favor with their sources. DeMaro was one of two media members who covered the Pirates with a consistently objective tone, one of two whose opinion I wouldn't immediately be able to guess, and the only one who had a platform to give those opinions. That is gone.

I'm not sure where to start on this decision, but let's first mention the fact that DeMaro's postgame show got higher ratings than the game. That's right, higher ratings than the games that Clear Channel pays money to air.

Also, on the cost-cutting. WPGB ranks fourth in ratings in the Pittsburgh market, which is the 25th biggest radio market in the country. WPGB inexplicably fired another popular sports host, Ellis Cannon, in March, and fired DeMaro yesterday. The Pirates provide their own announcers, so WPGB now has no sports hosts. What does their on-air "talent" consist of? Apparently the #4 rated station now can only afford to pay two local hosts, Jim Quinn and Rose Tennent. Quinn intelligently states on his web site, "Racial profiling is common sense" and "Islam is a global mental illness." So basically, promoting hatred of anyone who isn't white, appropriate; talking about Pirates baseball on the station that airs the Pirates in this market, inappropriate. Luckily Clear Channel's Pirates contract is up after 2011.

Speaking of that contract, Clear Channel signed a five year deal in 2006 to air Pirates baseball for the 2007-11 seasons. Undoubtedly Clear Channel offered the most money, but also key to the Pirates decision to end their affiliation with 50,000 watt KDKA-AM was the emphasis on sports at WPGB. "The partnership gives the Pirates enhanced opportunities to reach more fans outside of the game broadcasts through Clear Channel's massive dedication to sports and the Pirates on WPGB 104.7 FM," stated the Pirates' release at the time. The Pirates thought that broadcasting on a station with a sports host (Ellis Cannon) as the lead in and an extended postgame show afterwards would create more exposure for the Pirates in this market. Now, the lead in is Sean Hannity and the start of Michael Savage's show; if no one is hired to replace DeMaro, the postgame is the rest of Michael Savage's show. WPGB has taken their Pirates page down in their haste to pretend Rocco never worked there. Searching for "Pirates" or selecting "Sports" from the station's main page yields an error message.

Now I haven't seen the broadcast contract and I don't know anything about commercial contracts, even though I have a final exam on them Monday. But basically, if the Pirates relied on Clear Channel's promise of a sports emphasis to enter this contract, the Pirates probably have a legal right to get out of it and sign with another station if they are so inclined. Based on yesterday's move, that might be a good idea.


  1. Rocco was entertaining to listen to. Really makes no sense.

    Quinn and Rose are absolute nutjobs, and Rose comes off as a Sarah Palin type, completely uninformed and ignorant.

    I never liked Ellis Cannon, so whatever.

    Apparently they have completely given up the battle with The Fan - not that the Pirates can contractually jump ship right now.

    I'd have to imagine that's what brass is looking at when this contract is up, or like you said, maybe they have a loophole to get out.

    Clear Channel has been a sinking ship for years. Mega media consolidation was one of the worst products of the Clinton Era (ie; Omnibus Media Consolidation blah blah whatever it was called act of whatever year it was) -- It's allowed nutjobs like Quinn, Limbaugh, Savage, etc. to take over the airwaves, while legitimate talents, entertainers, etc -- Howard Stern and even to a lesser extent Rocco -- get kicked to the curb because they don't fit a program director from New York's vision of what the Pittsburgh radio market wants to listen to.

    Rocco deserves better, and I hope he can find another spot in this market doing something. Would LOVE him to replace Andrew Filiponi on the Pitt post game shows on The Fan - He is absolutely awful and his ridiculous criticize everything/conspiracy theories/etc. attitude sucks. He doesn't deserve a job.

  2. The Pirates need to go back to KDKA and have their games on 93.7 FM. The only time I ever listen to 104.7 is when the Pirates are on and I take them out of my favorites list during the offseason just so I don't expose myself to the inane blather that's on there. I feel like I lose a few IQ points everytime I listen to Clear Channel!

  3. When they made the move to FM, they were talking about how it was essential for reaching a younger audience. Hahaha.