Friday, April 4, 2014

WZBH hemorrhaging talent

In the last year, WZBH has seen the loss of five DJs (or "on air personalities", the seemingly favored job description at Great Scott Broadcasting) and possibly a sixth - JJ, Phoebus, Spera, Captain Blue, Doug McKenzie and possibly Ian McKay.  Ian has been missing in action all week, but we haven't been able to verify if he is no longer with the station or is simply on vacation. 

Of the employees who have left, only JJ can be verified as having moved to a new radio station (Ocean 98).   Phoebus is pursuing a career with World Gym, Spera appears to be seeking employment in York, PA, Captain Blue is touring with his band, and the whereabouts of Doug McKenzie and Ian McKay are unknown.

"So a bunch of people are gone," you might be saying.  "What's the big deal?  People leave their jobs all the time."

One doesn't need a degree in business nor extensive business experience to recognize when a company is in trouble, although it does help to have one such experienced business consultant on hand to decipher what might be going on over at WZBH.  A near complete personnel turnaround within a year is a sign of a company in trouble.

The nature of the employee exodus suggests upper management trouble.  JJ's exit was followed by Phoebus' exit a couple of months later, followed by Spera a couple of months after Phoebus, followed by both Captain Blue and Doug McKenzie on the same day a couple of months after Spera.  Three weeks after Captain Blue and Doug McKenzie left, Ian McKay has gone missing, possibly gone.

In response to our review on March 23, an anonymous commentator explained, at length, the inside workings of radio.  If one reads the comment carefully, it becomes obvious "anonymous" was an insider to WZBH as well as to the radio industry.  Before any listener knew Doug was gone, anonymous wrote  "...Doug, who is no longer there...."  When one says that an employee is "no longer there", that is a politically correct way of saying he was fired and obviously coming from someone working either at WZBH or with Great Scott Broadcasting. 

The business consultant on our staff interprets the information provided so far as a possible problem in upper management.  Employees are becoming dissatisfied with their jobs and are leaving in droves.  (Another possibility - but less likely given the nature of the business - is upper management decided to save money by cutting employees' hours.  If we had seen more nationally syndicated shows airing, we could see a cut in air time for the DJs, which could force them to look for employment elsewhere.)

Thanks to the wonderful world of the Internet, if one knows how to ask the right questions, one can find a wealth of information in a matter of minutes.  Ok, sometimes hours or even days if the answers to the questions asked raises even more questions.  In addition, people love to talk and a wealth of information can be gleaned from the social media, if one knows how to find it.  So we started digging to answer the question, "Why the huge turn around in DJs at WZBH in the last year?"

Matt was fired back in the summer of 2011.  Almost a year later, June 2012, Crank left WZBH and joined WGMD as star of his own talk show.  He failed miserably and two months later, returned to his old spot on the morning show at WZBH.  With the exception of Chris Steele leaving WZBH (to pursue his medical career) between Matt's firing and Crank's leaving, all was quiet at WZBH.

Tragedy struck on March 17, 2013.  CEO Mitch Scott passed away.  We haven't been able to pinpoint an exact date, but some time after Mr. Scott's passing, Crank was promoted to operations manager.  All was quiet at WZBH for four or five months until JJ left in the late summer.  The hemorrhaging hasn't stopped since.

Our business consultant zeroes in on the operations manager as a possible cause of the recent flight of employees.  The station appeared to be running fine until Crank became operations manager.

Operation manager is an important upper management position.  Operation managers are responsible for hiring people, negotiating contracts, addressing budget matters, understanding general business operations and guiding work teams for projects.

We have stated, repeatedly over the last couple of years, that Crank is a control freak who always needs to be right.  He doesn't allow his cohosts to shine in their own right and for every sentence they utter, Crank has four or five sentences to further clarify his cohosts' statement.  Heck, this morning, a paid advertiser was a guest and Crank couldn't let the paying advertiser explain what his beer product was.  Crank jumped in and explained the product as if he were marketing director for the beer company.  The Worst Show Ever should be renamed All About Crank to reflect more accurately what the show is about.

Someone with a heavy-handed, controlling personality who always needs to be in the spotlight is not the personality type a company would want in an operations manager position.  WZBH put Crank there anyway.  We don't know if it was Jeff Scott or Jim McHugh's decision to give Crank the position, but we think it's safe to say both can be blamed for a boner decision.  Let's face it.  Crank rode the coattails of a DJ who had to be fired because he brought the station to the brink of a lawsuit, then Crank upped and left for another station, and when he returned, was rewarded with an upper management position.

Free advice from our business consultant: take a hard look as to why your DJs have been fleeing your station and fire Crank to prevent future losses. 

Doug McKenzie was your program director who was probably fired at the hands of your operations manager.  Programming since Doug's departure has become a predictable mix of today's rock hits liberally mixed with rock hits of twenty years ago, hits more suitable for the sister station, Big Classic Rock 98.5.  Yes, Van Halen, Guns N Roses, and AC DC were big bands in their day, but does the operations manager, who most likely is subbing as program director right now, really think changing WZBH to a glorified classic rock station will expand WZBH's listening market?

Crank has more than demonstrated, over the last three years, his lack of creativity, talent, outside-the-box thinking ability, people skills, and diversity tolerance.  WZBH and Great Scott Broadcasting should seriously reconsider their decision to put Crank at the helm of operations. 


  1. I don't know if my previous comment went through so here it is again. First of all, Ian Mckay still works at Great Scott. His main focus is OC-104, and he was recently promoted to the Assistant Program Director role. He is known as "Chub Love" on the air and does afternoons on Oc-104. I believe he was recently moved back to the 7-midnight post on ZBH.

    As far as the changes at WZBH, it did not come from Crank. It came from the Owner, GM, and new PD. The PD is in charge of the programming at Great Scott under the direction of the Owner and GM. Changes were needed due to the station struggling in the ratings consistently for the last 5 years. Program Director Sean Mchugh and Music Director Doug Mckenzie were both let go on Monday March 17th. The station has been struggling due to bad programming, poor music rotation/selection, and mediocre to bad mornings shows over that time period. With those two being let go Blue decided to leave as well. The PD and management have decided to take the station back to it's "roots" by playing the songs that made ZBH a powerhouse for years with some new music mixed in. It is hard to program a rock station nowadays, as the rock format just isnt as good as it once was.

    As far as Matt being fired, he was never fired. He gave his two weeks to go to WGMD to do nights. At that point they told him not to come back. Then when he left WGMD Crank took his spot. Crank did well there and they promoted him to mornings when Dan Gaffney left. But the station was in a lot of turmoil and he decided to rejoin Great Scott. He is the morning show host and not the decision maker there.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    Since you have chosen to respond anonymously, we do not know your connection with WZBH or Great Scott Broadcasting, if any. We would like to believe you, but without knowing your "inside connection", we find your last paragraph hard to swallow. In case you are not aware, we documented Matt's departure on Aug 01, 2011 as well as Crank's departure about ten months later. Please feel free to go back in our timeline to review the facts that your new version of events can't paint over.

    We do have one question, though. If the station's ratings have struggled for the last five years, as you claim, why does the Great Scott website advertise "Has consistently been a top radio station in the market since 1988..." and why do WZBH's on air promos boast "Delmarva's leader for twenty-five years"? Either your version isn't quite true or the advertising is false, or misleading at best.

    Ok, we lied. We have a second question. If ratings have struggled for the last five years due, in part, to ..."mediocre to bad mornings shows over that time period," why would Crank not only be allowed back to host the morning show after he voluntarily left, but also be promoted to operations manager? His performance on the morning show contributes to the lackluster ratings so we don't understand the logic of not only keeping him on, but promoting him. Perhaps you could shed some light on how these moves are expected to increase ratings.

    We appreciate your effort to set the record straight, however, your explanation raises more questions than it answered.

    1. So why do you spend so much time listening if you don't like. Can't be all that bad ,

    2. Because we run a critics page and it'd be nice if we listened before writing our review. :)

  3. I'm the same anonymous from above. I think it is great that you follow a radio station so closely that you document the changes that go on. That is something that is missing in the media industry nowadays.

    Ratings- WZBH's ratings are it's own worst enemy. The station was a rating success throughout the 90's and most of 2000's. Ratings are available in some places online (12+ that is if you want to see for yourself). Arbitron was the provider for many years, and now Nielsen has taken over. In the information that is publicly posted, WZBH consistently would pull a share in the 6 range or above. But in recent years the share was closer to a 3 average. There are four signals in the Salisbury/OC Market that are stronger thany others they are : Q105, Froggy 99.9, OC104, and WZBH. If WZBH doesnt rate in the top 4 the company considers it a failure because of that. A station can brand itself anyway it wants. WZBH and it's sister station Big are the only two rock stations in the market. So even with losing half of it's numbers it still is placing high in male demographics. But not nearly as high as they were in the past.

    Morning Shows- Since the demise of Murph, Miki, and Cowboy in 2005 the station has had a rotating door of morning shows including: Murph, Sparx, and Hurly, Quinn Sparks, and Hurley, Rex and Smitty, JT and Steele, Murph and JT, Murph, Jackie, and JT....Matt and JT, Matt and Crank, Crank and JJ, Crank JJ Sarah, JJ and Sarah, Crank, JJ, and Sarah, Crank Phoebes and Sarah. That is a lot of different pairings and style of shows. Very inconsistent. it was a mistake when Matt and Crank would focus their show to extreme political views. Though strategically placed here and there could work on a rock station, making that the main focus was a bad move. They should've been on WGMD doing a show like that not WZBH. Then placing Crank with JJ was an awkward move because JJ is more of a "shock jock" and Crank a talk show host.

    From what I know Crank left on good terms and was brought back on good terms. I will read your story. I will say it is very tough to do a compelling morning show on a rock station nowadays, with the changes in generations and culture it is extremely tough to know what is good content and bad content.

    Music- The music was altered in the early 2000's to reflect the current rock that was out at the time. This worked well for the station. Unfortunately in 2014 the Rock genre has changed. This is a "slower" more rural area, so it is logical if ZBH is going to make a change that they play more 90's songs. Plus the music wasn't programmed right in recent years. Rock stations across the country tend to go back to the "gold" hits that they know people like.

    Anyway that's my two cents.

  4. "This is a "slower" more rural area, so it is logical if ZBH is going to make a change that they play more 90's songs."

    Wow, sounds similar to something Crank said three-and-a-half-years ago in defending that really offensive episode on 19 Aug 2011. Yeah, us country bumpkins don't know much so we like it when the city folk talk real slows to us so we can understand them.

    Bottom line: there's no denying the fact that in less than a year, there has been an almost complete turnover in personnel. We're blaming it on upper management and Crank. You're blaming it on the circumstances of a changing radio landscape and WZBH's past five year history.

    Thank you for giving readers another perspective to consider. Except for the "slower" comment, you are very articulate and come across as knowledgeable of the radio industry with inside information on WZBH and Great Scott Broadcasting. We welcome an editorial of your own and we will post it as a counterpoint. We'll promote it on FB get people to read it.

    If you decide to offer a guest piece (we can't pay you for it), we would need a bio of sorts. We recognize the importance of anonymity in fostering true free speech so a simple blurb with a name (real or made up) and anything else you want to mention about yourself would suffice. If you want to link a blog or website, that would be fine, too.

  5. I'm a radio guy who did a search on WZBH to find out when they are going to flip the switch to 50,000 watts. They were granted approval to raise their power yesterday.

    I think what you are missing here is that the Salisbury-Ocean City radio market is a very small market. People working in radio here are either on their way up and will move on to a larger market, or hobby people who have a second source of income. They pay in this market is low, very low. Here's the big problem: there are a shitload of stations on the dial here. A bunch of locals, a bunch from the immediate surrounding area, and some from far away like NJ. The audience pie is divided more than most other markets, and that pie is small to begin with. Because of that, the stations here aren't billing what they should be, and in return aren't paying what they should be. I wouldn't look too deeply into the exodus of employees here because people have to eat. Hopefully, with the soon to be vastly improved signal, WZBH can start getting business from places along the other coast of Delmarva and begin to bill better numbers. If that happens, they hopefully will pay some on-air people a decent wage and be able to bring in better people. We'll see...

  6. Thank you for the insight, Anonymous.

    While we're sure that the factors you explain are at play, we don't believe they are enough to explain the recent departures. Usually hobbyists, second-income employees, and employees moving to larger markets tell their fans good bye. We know Doug McKenzie was fired, Captain Blue quit the same day, Spera resigned because of a cut in hours, Phoebus left to pursue a physical fitness career, and JJ left for another station in the Salisbury-OC market, which, in our amateur sleuthing, we figure reaches an even smaller audience than WZBH. That's five people in about seven months, four within the last three, alone. If you look at the two years prior to JJ leaving last summer, only two people left in a twenty-four month period.

    Something changed at the station shortly after March 17, 2013. While we zeroed in on the operations manager, we acknowledge other factors may be at play.

    A cut in hours and/or pay is one we considered, but doesn't the decision to cut employee work hours or pay fall under the responsibility of the operations manager?

    Moving on to bigger and better things may have been a factor at least for Phoebus, but Captain Blue quitting the same day Doug McKenzie was fired points to other factors for his departure.

    So, out of the five recent departures, we can look at one as fitting under the factors you mention, but that still leaves the other four.

    A new bit of information that came to light since writing this review is WZBH has signed on to another nationally syndicated show to air at nights. We're figuring nights means the seven to midnight time slot. You might find this review ( might give you a bit more insight into our thinking.

  7. Why aren't you writing about Irie Radio, WOCM. Talk about a sinking ship. Bulldong has been cleaning house and tossing employees out the door left and right. There is a story there if you dig deep enough you will get a lot of dirt. Ask ex-employees.

  8. Thank you for the news tip, Anonymous. Unfortunately, WOCM isn't in our listening area so other than knowing ex-WZBH on air personality JJ Roth is over there, we know nothing of the station.

    We originally started this page to document the racist and homophobic views being presented on WZBH daily, especially noted on a particularly offensive morning show aired by Matt and Crank on Aug 19, 2010. All the players from that time era are gone so we don't concentrate on radio reviews anymore.

    In addition, the five of us have dwindled down to one. A marriage, a moving, and a death left the five of us down to two, of which my other half still occasionally adds a bit to my new venture that is broader in scope: Five Drunk Rednecks Critics. (

    While I maintain this blog for historical reference since neither Crank nor Matt or Great Scott Broadcasting ever did apologize for that particularly offensive show on Aug 19, 2010, this blog has pretty much served its purpose and I don't add much to it anymore. I am, however, always looking for guest posts. If you want to write an article on WOCM, please feel free to contact me through the new blog linked above.