March 12, 2010

Radio stations cut costs in economic downturnThis is a 6-60-1 dummy headyne yyyyy

By RAY ROUTHIER Staff Writer

— By RAY ROUTHIER

Staff Writer

The economic crisis is affecting Portland's radio stations, with owners imposing salary reductions, layoffs and other cuts to reduce costs in the wake of declining advertising revenue.

The Portland Radio Group -- an eight-station cluster including WGAN (560 AM), WMGX (93.1 FM) and WYNZ (100.9 FM) -- has laid off workers and imposed pay cuts for employees.

The group's president, Cary Pahigian, said Thursday that he would not talk about the cuts other than to say that his group had to lay off a ''handful'' of full-time employees.

Tom Taylor, editor of the Web site Radio-Info.com, said Portland Radio Group's parent company, Michigan-based Saga Communications, has imposed a 5 percent across-the-board pay cut on employees at all its stations.

''It's in line with what several radio companies have done, in light of the economy and the decline in advertising,'' Taylor said.

At WHOM (94.9 FM), owned by Nevada- and New York-based Citadel Broadcasting, well-known DJ Dean Rogers has found himself without a full-time position in radio for the first time in 40 years.

Rogers lost his full-time job as morning host at WHOM in November, but was kept on staff as a part-time fill-in. Rogers had been at the station for eight years when he was told that Citadel ordered his full-time position to be cut.

''It's the first time I've ever been out of a job, in 40 years on the radio, so it's pretty weird,'' Rogers said.

Rogers is also the longtime public address announcer for the Portland Sea Dogs and will continue in that job, he said.

Mike Sambrook, general manager of Citadel's four stations in Portland, did not return phone calls seeking comment. In Portland, Citadel also owns classic rock station WBLM (102.9 FM) and pop station WJBQ (97.9 FM).

Pahigian did not want to say what positions were targeted at Portland Radio Group, or whether any were on-air personalities.

''We did have a handful of layoffs of full-time people as part of a work force reduction caused by this global recession,'' Pahigian said. ''But it's personal and private, and I don't think it serves anyone to talk about employees in public.''

Most of Portland's commercial radio stations are owned by three companies: Saga, Citadel and New Jersey-based Nassau Broadcasting.

Nassau has not had layoffs at its five Maine stations, said Pat Collins, senior vice president for Nassau in Maine. In fact, the company has seen ''tremendous growth'' in advertising at its country station, WTHT (99.9 FM), Collins said.

''But that doesn't mean we aren't watching expenses tightly as a company,'' Collins said.

Portland's other radio group is the locally owned Atlantic Coast Radio, which consists of three sports stations -- WJJB (96.3 FM and 1440 AM), WPEI (95.9 FM) and WGEI (95.5 FM) -- and talk station WLOB (1310 AM).

Atlantic Coast General Manager Jon Van Hoogenstyn said his company has not had layoffs, largely because ''we were pretty lean to begin with.''

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

rrouthier@pressherald.com

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