‘Think Mornings' leaving radio

Charlotte talk station WDYT-AM (1220), which has struggled to find a niche in the region's competitive radio market, is scrapping its local morning show in favor of cheaper syndicated programming.

Five people on the show, plus one in promotions, are losing their jobs, said Deanna Greco, WDYT's general manager.

Greco said Friday the station hopes to bring the morning team back if they are available when ad sales rebound, but couldn't predict how long that might be.

Cancellation of the morning show – which originated from an uptown street-level studio at 201 S. College St. – comes at a difficult time for host Jon Robinson, who is recovering from successful cancer treatment. He was diagnosed in April with squamous cell carcinoma in his neck and has been undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments since May.

Robinson lost about 60 pounds during the regimen and was hoping to return to the air in the next few weeks when his throat was healed.

A longtime veteran of Charlotte TV and radio, Robinson said he understood the station's need to cut staff during a difficult economic time. “Timing is bad, but it isn't about them kicking me to the curb when I'm down and out,” said Robinson, who joined the station about two years ago.

Other personalities on WDYT's “Think Mornings” show were Molly Carroll, Chris Stowe on sports, news director Keven Casey and producer Dave Ulrich. Although it failed to seriously challenge in the ratings of “Charlotte Morning News” on dominant news/talk station WBT AM (1110), “Think Mornings” delivered many high-profile interviews of national newsmakers, including presidential candidate Barack Obama.

WDYT was launched by Danny Fontana, a Charlotte investment adviser who used to be on WBT. Fontana, who will continue to host afternoon shows on WDYT, assembled investors to buy the station in 2006 from former N.C. lottery commissioner Kevin Geddings, who was later convicted of mail fraud. Its transmitter was moved from Kings Mountain to Gaston County to improve the signal strength in Charlotte.

But even with the addition of such syndicated talents as Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, WDYT has found it hard to crack the market successfully amid the worst advertising downturn in memory and cuts were necessary. In the most recent Arbitron ratings period, the station failed to place in the top 25 among Charlotte stations.

“It's a tough advertising market out there,” Greco said. “Everybody's going through the same thing. It's a cycle. It will come around.”

Greco said syndicated programming will replace the morning show on Monday, but it had not been determined late Friday what it would be.