Tuesday, September 06, 2005

As published in allaccess.com, a leading national radio trade:

RON PRITCHARD’S legal battle with his former employer, MACDONALD GARBER BROADCASTING has ended. A settlement has been reached between MGB and the former PD for Top 40 WKHQ/CHARLEVOIX, for an undisclosed amount of cash and other terms. A statement released by MGB Owner/CEO TRISH MACDONALD-GARBER reads in part, "We investigated RON arising out of his involvement with a record promoter, and the fact that the promoter sent him a check. We concluded as a result of our investigation that RON did not violate any broadcast rules or laws in receiving money from the promoter. We determined that the money was not "payola" or an otherwise illegal or unethical payment. After the investigation, RON voluntarily gave the un-cashed check to his supervisor without endorsing it. We apologize to RON for any harm that has come his way as a result of this situation."

The 18-year radio vet, who now works with the MICHIGAN TALK RADIO NETWORK, tells ALL ACCESS, "That company was my home and extended family for 10 years, yet they questioned my honesty and integrity. Their accusation damaged my reputation, and nearly ruined my career. Thankfully it’s over. I’ve been vindicated and can now put this all behind me and focus on the future."

This article is basically true, but here is the rest of the story:

Mr. Pritchard had been the Program Director and Afternoon Drive personality at WKHQ for 8 years, after having worked his way up from overnights. Through the years there had been some up and down Arbitron ratings in the Persons 12+ category, but the ratings were always good enough in the company's target demo for the radio station (Females 18-34, or Females 25-49, depending on what mood management was in that day) that they kept Mr. Pritchard in that position for 8 years.

In March of 2004, the company brought in a "Marketing and Imaging Consultant" named Mark Hansell. Mr. Hansell immediately created an environment of paranoia in the halls of the company by asking questions of employees about their bosses and other employees. That included airstaff, sales, office, everyone. He would then tell the staff of each radio station in the company (Lite 96FM, Mix 96 and 106 KHQ) about all the changes he was going to make without first talking to the Program Directors, the people who are actually in charge of those things.

Mr. Hansell, along with then company General Manager Phill Orth, began the task of cleaning house of the ones who spoke up (Lite 96 Mid Day Man Jim Scollin, KHQ Morning Man Ted Cramer (who was also Lite 96 Afternoon Driver Carey O'Neil, and Mix 96 Program Director Shane McIntosh), and rewarding those who marched in lockstep (KHQ Part Timer Luke Hagelberg, KHQ Night guy JT). Jim Scollin was the first to go, followed shortly after by Ted Cramer. Mr. Hansell replaced Jim Scollin and Ted Cramer with HIMSELF, and annointed himself as "Corporate Director of Programming," essentially taking over all three radio stations in one fell swoop, and with the pledge to "play lots of golf." Mind you, he had not programmed a radio station in ten years, but more on that in a future post.

With the takeover nearly complete, there was only one person left in his way, and that was Ron Pritchard. He worked on Ron with a barrage of screaming, threats, accusations, finger pointing, and pitting his team (a team he had run for 8 years), and bosses (bosses he had had for 10 year), against him. The tactic worked, after the overweight Pritchard had a heart attack due to stress (so said the doctors). It was after the heart attack that Mr. Pritchard became, in the words of Mr. Hansell and Mr. Orth, "a financial liability to the compnay." Mr. Pritchard had always been overweight, yet it was not an issue with the company until after the heart attack.

It was in June of 2004 that Mr. Pritchard received a check from an independent record promoter as a finder's fee for giving their number to a Hard Core Grand Rapids Rapper who paid them a few thousand dollars to promote his record. I don't know how much the check was for, but Mr. Hansell does. He found the unopened check on Mr. Pritchard's desk, opened it, and took it to Mr. Orth and company owner Trish MacDonald Garber, with the accusation of payola. Payola is "pay for play," playing a record for money, and it is a Federal crime. They began an investigation without Mr. Pritchard's knowledge, and immediately leaked it to the local broadcasting industry in an attempt to ruin Mr. Pritchard's career. When Mr. Pritchard found out and lawyered up, the accusation was dropped, but the damage was already done. Mr. Pritchard was fired from the company less than a week later (more on that in a future post if you want it), and so far, because of this accusation, has not been able to get a job in music radio anywhere in the country.