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Keith Larson berates WBT bosses for contract decision on air

Station says it asked Keith Larson to stay on as an at-will employee

By Mark Washburn
TV/Radio Writer

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Keith Larson opened his morning talk show on WBT-AM (1110) Wednesday with a blast at a new target: his own station.

After telling listeners he had been informed that his contract at the news-talk station wouldn’t be renewed, Larson said, “Top WBT management came to this decision some time ago … and they’ve chosen to wait as late as possible to tell me. …

“I was not given a specific reason for this, nor did I ask for one. Radio station management does not need a reason. They can always find a reason or spin one up when they let someone go.”

Larson told listeners he did not know whether WBT would let him continue on the air after criticizing the station, but told the Observer later in the day that he expects to keep doing his show until his contract expires next month.

Larson, 55, who has been at the station for a decade, said he learned his year-to-year contract would not be renewed in a meeting Tuesday with WBT program director Carl East.

“We did say our desire was that we didn’t want to renew the contract but wanted him to remain as an employee at-will,” Rick Feinblatt, WBT’s general manager, said Wednesday.

“He has not told us whether that is acceptable or not. I don’t know where he is. He may have made a decision, but I don’t know what it is.”

Under that offer, Larson could have stayed on the air for a time, but would not be guaranteed a term of employment. Broadcasters generally are hired on contracts, varying from short-term deals to multi-year commitments. Feinblatt, who is out of town this week, said he intends to meet with Larson next week.

In an interview with the Observer, Larson said he could not say whether he might be willing to continue working for the station under such an arrangement. “I have no answer to that,” he said. “A wise man is open to all things.”

Feinblatt said he was irritated that Larson took the situation public on his show before it had been decided, but Larson told listeners he had always spoken his mind and couldn’t do the program without disclosing it.

“Yeah, I would have to come here today and tell you guys about it. How could I not?” he said on the show.

Feinblatt said the station had no one in mind to replace Larson, whose contract runs through May 24.

Larson said he made notes the night before on the statement he intended to deliver on the radio and didn’t tell superiors what he intended to say.

“I’m going to go on doing pretty normal show stuff for the next few weeks,” he said, including a fundraiser Saturday for children’s cancer research.

Larson took over the 9 a.m. to noon slot in 2002. He said he plans to focus in the future on his independent advertising and marketing business that he started last year, Larson Advertising and Media Associates (LAMA).

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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