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Recently in Jonathon Brandmeier Category

Brant Miller, the engaging meteorologist on NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, has lost his second gig as a morning drive host on Citadel Broadcasting's oldies station WLS-FM (94.7), where he had been on air for two years. Until June of 2008, WLS-FM had operated under the call letters WZZN-FM. The move to cut Miller from the roster at WLS-FM comes soon after parent Citadel Broadcasting's bankruptcy filing.

The WLS morning show gig had provided Miller a presence on radio, a medium in which he seemed to be just as comfortable as he is on television. Before he turned to weather forecasting on television as his principal job in the late 1980's, Miller was a radio DJ on several stations in Denver and Chicago, including WLS-AM (890)

But like other some Chicago radio outlets in recent months that have opted to play down personality and focus more on music, WLS-FM is apparently going in that direction too.
"We are going to replace him (Brant) with another personality and make the show more music-focused," said WLS-FM program director Michael La Crosse. Emmis Communications' classic rock station WLUP-FM (97.9) dropped high profile morning drive talent Jonathon Brandmeier late last year and said it too wanted to focus more on music instead of personality.

Minus his WLS-FM job, Miller still will be plenty busy as lead weatherman at WMAQ, where he does forecasts for both the station's early newscasts and the flagship 10 p.m. news. He joined WMAQ in 1991, after a brief stint at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32.

So now that Jonathon Brandmeier has signed on the dotted line to stay at WLUP-FM (97.9) for at least one relatively brief year, the question now is: what does news/talk WGN-AM (720) do to fill its vacant mid-afternoon host slot? Garry Meier has been mentioned repeatedly as one possible candidate for the job.

But now that WGN management has waited so long to fill that slot in the hopes they might somehow find a way to accommodate Brandmeier, the station finds the annual baseball season fast approaching. That could make naming a permanent replacement less urgent, because the 1 to 4 p.m. slot will be filled with ballgames on many weekdays over the next six months. So it would be hard for any newly-installed talent to gain quick traction if his or her show were repeatedly pre-empted by baseball.

Though negotiations have not always gone smoothly,WGN executives have certainly been talking to Garry Meier and his agent (who is also his wife) about a deal for the mid-afternoon gig. But they could wind up turning to an alternative talent that won't demand the big bucks a number of big names in the radio world could command not that long ago.

Executives running radio stations today, however, know the business can no longer readily support million-dollar salaries. But sources say Meier apparently isn't yet convinced he can't get a big-bucks deal out of WGN's bankrupt parent Tribune Co. If they feel they need to put a host in the mid-afternoon slot sooner rather than later, WGN executives could pass on Meier and go with another, potentially lesser name who is competent and can be had at a price WGN can live with. Stay tuned, as they say.

Should Emmis Communications-owned WLUP-FM (97.9) wind up losing the services of morning drive show host Jonathon Brandmeier to Tribune Co.'s WGN-AM (720), the classic rock station will have to come up with something pronto to replace its morning star. Sources say one possible option that could work -- at least for a while -- is a syndicated comedic radio show called "The Bob & Tom Radio Show," fronted by Bob Kevoian and Tom Griswold. Punchline magazine referred to them as "midwest radio gods."

For WLUP, the chief virtue of picking up such a show would be the cost -- quite low in comparison to retaining Brandmeier and his production team. The downside is that Chicago audiences typically don't respond well to syndicated product. But Rick Balis, the man taking over programming responsibilities at the Loop in the wake of Thursday's mass firings, knows the Bob & Tom show well, because it airs on the St. Louis station KSHE-FM (94.7) that Balis also programs.



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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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