Radio Free Agency: Sun Radio Network (One More Time), 1995

I still have my FCC card from 1991, 21 years later, 4/24/2012.

Another new year dawned, and it began to dawn onto me that it was possible that I wouldn’t be spending my seventh straight year working at the radio business at some point during the course of the year.  I was working the odd jobs here and there, preparing for a life without this addictive business.

In early February 1995, I get another fateful call from Sun Radio Network operations manager Stan Anderson.  Openings were again available at SRN, and I was asked if I wanted to work there for a fifth time.  Even though this was making me the Billy Martin of board operators (the late New York Yankees manager that was hired and fired by George Steinbrenner repeatedly), I accepted.

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Radio Free Agency: Sun Radio Network (Again), 1993/94

My reasons for leaving WBDN were academic, really.  It was only a matter of time before the Brandon station was sold and their talk radio experiment of non-Sun Radio Network nor non-Independent Broadcasters Network programming would be deemed a flop by the power of the purses of the new owners.  Christmas of 1993 was calling.  Would I wind up employed over the holidays, or not?

Right after resigning from WBDN, I get a call from my former boss, Stan Anderson, over at Sun.  Miracle of miracles, they were re-hiring again, and asked if I was interested in rejoining them.  I had to think about it for a moment, a very fleeting moment.  Some might view going back to SRN as a regression in character, but the overriding concern was not being unemployed over the holidays, so I jumped at the chance to go back to my old friends there.

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Radio Free Agency: WHNZ, 1993

Once the Sun Radio Network was in the rear view mirror, it was time to land another radio job.  I had four stations in mind to work for, it was just a question of who would hire me, if anybody.

WFLA was the local talk giant, so I went to them first, got nowhere.  WFNS Sportsradio 910 was the first all-sports radio in the market, located in eastern Tampa at the time, not too far from where the Seminole Hard Rock casino now sits.  Met ex-Buccaneer Scot Brantley when I applied, thought he was a nice guy.  But no cigar there.

I also looked into working for Sonny Bloch’s Independent Broadcasters Network.  A lot of SRN employees had defected there, so it seemed like the perfect fit for me.  Steve Wiegner, my first operations manager, held the same position there at IBN.  But here was the rub: they wanted to start me as a part-time employee, and I thought it was bullshit.  I had already proven myself at SRN for the same guy, so why should I go through the same rigmarole there?  Didn’t make any sense, and I smelt a rat.  So, I passed.

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The Sun Years, Conclusion: From Radio Free America To A Radio Free Agent

As 1993 dawned, I was starting my fourth year as a Sun Radio Network board operator slash producer.  I’d logged over 4,000 hours of seat time on a nationally syndicated radio network, and would work every hour of the clock during the course of a week at one point or another.  I’d seen numerous hosts, shows, and board operators come and go, and yet at the age of 21, I was still there.  Was I doing a good job, or was it just the dumb luck of doing good work at the right time?

By the start of 1993, we were no longer a 24 hour a day outfit.  We were on the air 3pm to midnight during the weekdays, 8am to 8pm on the weekends.  Three years prior, it was reported that it cost SRN $202,000 a month to run, $166,000 of that coming from Liberty Lobby, a controversial organization believed by the media to be Anti-Semetic.  With 60% of the on air time now gone, it now cost them much less to stay afloat.

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The Sun Years, Part VI: It’s A Great Night For Some Homophobic Talk

After working nine months or so as the exclusive board operator-slash-producer for The Stan Major Show, I thought it was time to explore some other options.  Stan Anderson, our operations manager, came up with a brilliant idea to give the board operators at SRN a working knowledge of the majority of the shows on the network at the time.

What he did was he took myself and two other board operators and decided to “wheel” us.  Or at least that’s my term for it, anyway.  I’d work the 6am to noon shift on Mondays and Thursday, the 6pm to midnight shift Tuesdays, and the 12pm to 6pm shift Wednesdays.  Now, I still had to do Stan’s shift on Friday night going into Saturday morning, and I think I had a Sunday shift to do as well.  But working with Stan once a week would be better than working with him all the time, or so I thought.  Stan’s show would continue on, and the crew of board operators we had at the time…well, it really didn’t matter who was producing his show.

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The Sun Years, Part V: You’re Just A Board Op

As 1992 began, I was a beginning my third year as a board operator-slash-producer of the Sun Radio Network.  It seemed I had found my place at the fledgling network producing The Stan Major Show, which wasn’t too easy considering how rapidly they went through talent (show hosts) and board operators.

My shifts by the start of ’92 were now down to five a week, eight hours a night.  Max Stewart no longer had his 5am-6am farm hour by this time, he had been replaced by an exceptional talent named Ed Hartley, then shortly after that my boss Stan Anderson helmed the hour, and then by mid-1992 SRN ran a one hour replay of Stan’s show.

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The Sun Years, Part III: A Menagerie Of Transitions

So here I was in the spring of 1991, working for the Sun Radio Network in Clearwater, Florida.  As I’ve mentioned before, Sun also had it’s own radio station locally at the time, WEND, and also owned a satellite chain that carried Sun programming 99% of the time, North America One (at one point, NA1 was its own entity entirely, but merged with Sun before I was employed there).  SRN had a quality lineup of hosts who brought in stations, large and small, from all over the country.

The network had one significant problem: it wasn’t just losing money, it was hemorrhaging it, to the tune of $202,000 a month.  It takes a lot of money to keep a national network on the air between cutting edge (at the time) phone technology, paying building rent, and paying employees.  To help pay for this white elephant came an organization from Washington D.C. called Liberty Lobby.  According to a 1991 interview with Richard Benton, who was with SRN’s affiliate relations director at the time, Liberty Lobby paid about $166,000 of that $202,000 of debt SRN was piling up, and was doing so every month.

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