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Shannon Walks Plank; KQLZ Goes Mainstream

Pirate Radio KQLZ-FM is expected to abandon its existing hybrid rock format and turn to a more mainstream, album-oriented rock style following the dismissal of morning jock Scott Shannon.

Shannon’s final show on the Westwood One-owned station closed Feb. 13 to strains of “Happy Trails To You.” He was given his walking papers Feb. 12.

The once top-rated New York morning deejay, who is in the midst of a four-year contract reportedly worth $1.5 million annually, failed to catch on in the Los Angeles market. His heavily promoted program constituted the station’s lowest-rated daypart.

Westwood One chairman and CEO Norman Pattiz said the station’s 2.7 share and 1 million cume is respectable, but not enough to cover the cost structure. KQLZ is designed to draw a 5 share and a 1.5 million cume, he noted.

Because Westwood wanted to avoid alienating the core audience with a drastic format change, Pattiz said he opted to cut the under-performing morning show that accounts for roughly 30% of the station’s annual $10 million operating cost.

Of the eight to 10 station employees who were axed, Pattiz said most of them worked for the morning show.

Shannon will continue to host his weekly syndicated top-30 countdown show on Westwood One, but will not move to either of the company’s two New York stations. (WYNY-FM New York will retain its country format while WNEW-AM New York will keep its nostalgia, talk and sports format.)

Pattiz said he expects to work out an “amicable parting” with Shannon, who joined Westwood in January 1989 shortly after the Culver City-based company bought the station, then KIQQ-FM (KLITE), for $56 million. He was brought in as v.p. with overall programming responsibilities from his No. 1-ranked morning radio show at WHTZ-FM New York, shortly before Westwood implemented the format and call letter change.

Pattiz expressed admiration for Shannon’s abilities, but said “this business is different from market to market.”

Westwood One radio consultant Jeff Pollack and station manager Nancy Leichter will oversee the fine tuning of the AOR format during the transition period. The two will launch a search for a new programming director.

Former KLSX-FM/KRLAAM general manager Bob Moore was named exec v.p. of the Westwood One Stations Group and will be based in Culver City. He will devote much of his time to KQLZ, according to Pattiz.

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