Garry Meier to WGN; Local Nightly News ratings

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Posted by on April 03, 2009 at 11:53:43:

Meier throws in with WGN

April 3, 2009

BY LEWIS LAZARE Sun-Times Columnist

Garry Meier may no longer be a million-dollar radio man, but he is at least back on the air after a lengthy hiatus. On Thursday, WGN-AM (720) tapped Meier as the host of the news/talk station's mid-afternoon show from 1 to 4 p.m. He replaces John Williams, who moved to WGN's morning drive slot late in 2008. Meier will begin his new show today.

WGN Program Director Kevin Metheny called Meier a "locally known force of nature, and we're happy to be partnering with him."

For 15 years Meier, was half of one of the most successful of all on-air radio pairings when he co-hosted the "Steve & Garry Show" with Steve Dahl, who was recently dumped by WJMK-FM (104.3). Meier also teamed up for eight years with Roe Conn on the "Roe & Garry Show" on WLS-AM (890), but in a move that perplexed many local radio observers, Meier refused in 2004 to resign a multimillion-dollar contract to continue working with Conn. Meier has never explained why he walked away from that deal. In 2007, Meier briefly resurfaced on WCKG-FM, before the CBS radio station abruptly changed formats and call letters.

Meier says his main goal at WGN is to have fun. "I want to go in every day and enjoy why I got into this business in the first place," said Meier, who would not discuss specifics about his new contract.

Meier's agent, who is also his wife, was rumored to be pushing hard for a salary in the neighborhood of $1 million, but WGN management staunchly resisted. "I'm happy with what we ended up with," said Meier, who perhaps now realizes the economics of radio can no longer support million-dollar talent.

Local radio executives say top salaries for big-name morning drive hosts in the Chicago market now top out at around $500,000 a year.

Meier may have to wait at least six months to find out what kind of traction he will have at WGN. Starting next week, Cubs games broadcast on WGN will frequently preempt Meier's show. "I'm not worried about that," he said. "Maybe I can get some of that large baseball audience to try my show."

WBBM rises at 10 p.m.

The March television news ratings book closed Thursday. Let's just say it's still way too early to say whether CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 is making major headway in the ratings. At 10 p.m., however, WBBM was the only station to rise in the ratings, jumping to a 4.8 from a 3.2 a year ago -- though much of that growth appears fueled by the station's huge lead-in audience. The other 10 p.m. local newscasts showed marginal decreases. WLS is still far ahead, however, with a 9.7, followed by NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5's 6.7. WGN-Channel 9 scored a 5.3 for its 9 p.m. newscast, and Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 had a 3.7 rating at 9 p.m.

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