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The axeman cometh.

Passed over for the presidency of CJOB in 1981, Ralph Warrington is now back, He has been re-hired to fatten the balance sheets of Winnipeg's number

one radio station,

and if that means firing some longtime

Personnel, so be it.

We're driving, listening to the radio and thinking it is more than music. It is; it's the sound of commercial advertising selling products and services. And if your station is ahead in the annual Bureau of Broadcast Measurement ear count of listeners it's reflected in advertising revenues. In Winnipeg the rate for a 30,second spot varies from $45 on lesser stations to $100 for those with a big market share, And there is a truism that station owners know about radio. Banal or smart, powerful or peaceful, radio is our constant companion.

There's plastic-covered radio in shower, jogging radio, sports radio, party radio, opinion radio, rock radio, country radio and classical radio. The majority of us are always listening, at some point in the day. When we listen and how old we are, are what advertisers want to know so they can get their message to us.

Radio wakes us up and lulls us to sleep and we may switch the dial frequently in search of the right fix for our mood. We are loyal as listeners to a degree, but fool with major programming, such as music or key shows, and your audience could wander at the wrong time, like during the BBM quarterly rating period.

So, if that's true, why would marketing leader CJOB, the Gibraltar of Winnipeg's radioland, make dramatic programming changes for its 280,000 listeners axing statue-like shows like the call-in program, Beefs and Bouquets and The Shut-ins and fire staff, lots of staff? Ralph Warrington knows why. He was hired to replace the fired station head, John Cochrane, who, after 30 years in the business, signed off.

Unfortunately, it appears to me this station, as good as it is, got very complacent; it didn't make any changes.

"We have to serve two groups of people, those who listen and those who buy advertising. It's all a package and maybe the public isn't fully aware of what's involved", he said. "We have very intense programming meetings."

The station gave three hours of air time to the debate on a proposed new Winnipeg arena. Warrington described the move as showing that old 'OB leadership. Then there was a three-hour call-in and discussion show Easter Sunday, hosted by talk-show all-star Peter Warren, dealing with why people aren't attending church anymore. Del Sexsmith, the station's director of programming, says the moves are to better balance the station's listening audience which had become weighted in the over-55 age group. "We want the young growing family market back," he said. "We have 70 percent of our listeners over 55 and we'd like a 50-50 age group split to better complement our advertisers."

With that, Warrington added SUSAN, a lifestyle show for the 8 to 10 p.m. time slot on weeknights with Susan as, for the yuppies and their advertisers. Then he axed the morning crew on the troubled KIS/FM station. Gone are Tom McGouran and Larry Updike, whose helter-skelter humor and skits got a gold star from many.

Warrington has sent more people packing than an Air Canada seat sale. Gone are commercial production manager Keith Reid, replaced by Morley Calahan; creative director Ann Klassen, replaced by Laurie Mustard, who doubles as a morning show host; news director Bob Beaton, a 25-year employee, replaced by Ihor Shawarsky. A former Blue Bomber, Mitch Zalnasky, the station's sales manager, said adieu and was replaced by Neila Kembel. Even Warrington's inherited secretary, Sylvia Libitka, quit.

And every departure has been reported by Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gordon Sinclair, a news vortex who at times seems to be hiding in the station's washroom.

Warrington was not overjoyed about Sinclair's intrusion into 'OB's business. But he took it in stride.

"The notoriety is no problem. We're in that unfortunate position of being in the public eye. If the Free Press chooses to make the public aware of changes at the radio station, there's nothing I can do about it. If they think it's newsworthy, then that's an editorial decision."

Warrington's program cuts sliced deeply into the psyche of the long-time 'OB listen, ing audience. Gone is the syrupy, melancholic music Sunday show for the old and ill called The Shut-ins. He called it depressing. Then, the unthinkable was done. Warrington junked Beefs and Bouquets, a call-in show applauding hockey teams or good marks at school or vilifting politicians. Sinclair printed the heresy before it's legendary host, Red Alix, announced it would be dropped from his Wake Up Winnipeg early morning show. Fans howled but weren't heard on CJOB. Canned as well was an eclectic music/old time radio drama offering from Vancouver heard Sunday nights. Warrington wanted more time for sultry music and the nightowl, Jim Coghill, on Midnight Blue.

Warrington then spawned Prime Time Sports, a call-in show with Les Lazaruk, from 6:05 p.m. to 8 p.m. every weeknight. This was aimed at pushing the station's sports image, a solid audience draw in the 'OB play, book.

CJOB's power drive is its AM radio audience, 70 percent of whom are 50 years old and up. Its FM side, CKIS-FM is in trouble and has had its wrist slapped by the CRTC for straying from its soft rock music format.

An AM audience is static, while the growth and additional revenues is in FM. But this is where the station has suffered badly, Warrington admits. It is there that a strong and consistent music voice will be re-established, he says.

While 'OB is changing the radio advertising market, in general it is soft by about five percent from traditional volumes. Radio advertising rates have been static in Winnipeg since last fall, says janice Kay, a media director at Foster/Marks Advertising in the city. "That's the same as a reduction, she says.

CJOB can demand top dollar for its public ear because it draws the largest cumulative audience on a 24-hour basis. But CKY, CKRC and FOX are close behind in the general buyer age bracket 25-to-54. "It's hard to plan a campaign for a client using just one station," says Kay.

CJOB's main appeal has been its stability and its knowledgeable information sources like newspaperman Peter Warren. The station's listeners are small-c conservative and mildly redneck. They love the right-wing Warren, a barking talk-show host, similar to Vancouver's razor-tongued jack Webster in his heyday. From 8:30 a.m. till noon weekdays Warren's Action Line callers don't have to fight higher intellects for air time in their drive to make a point. Warrington has signed Warren to a new three-year contract - a popular move, no doubt, with the soapbox set.

Afternoons on 'OB are piloted by the friendly patter, souffle humor and oddities in the news, put together by the enigmatic Alan Willoughby on Homeward Hustle. And, there is knowledgeable commentary from Eric Wells, a former newspaper editor; veteran sport commentators like Jack Matheson; and Broadcast Sports Hall of Famer, Cactus Jack Wells, hold aging sports fans to the dial.

Although on the street Warrington has been called an axeman, it's unschooled criticism say some radio insiders. They say 'OB was due for changes and Warring, ton is the man for the times.

In March, he was called by J.E. (Ted) Smith, CEO of Westcom Radio Ltd., owner of CJOB. Westcom is a division of Western International Communications of Vancouver which is a publicly traded company and responsible to its shareholders for performance. Westcom is the radio division of WIC, which also owns five television stations in B.C. and Alberta, and Westcom Radio Group Ltd., which owns nine AM-FM stations in Canada. It also owns 51 percent of Canadian Satellite Communications Inc. (Cancom), a world leader in satellite technology.

Warrington had worked for Smith at CJOB when Smith was sales manager in 1973. Smith asked him if he wanted the station. Warrington's response was swift.

"There was nothing for me to think over," he says. "I was there for 12 years; I never really left."

It's highly ironic that Ralph Warrington should come back to CJOB. He has blinked several times and hasn't put up any pictures on his office walls since taking Cochrane's chair March 5.

In 1981, he was passed over for the top job, given instead to then-program director John Cochrane who, Warrington maintains, is "immensely talented" and for whom he professes great respect.

He says he was denied the job initially because "he rubbed the chairman of WicRay Peters, the wrong way." In what he describes as "a very abrupt" half-hour meeting in Peters' office in Vancouver April 21, 1981, he realized his progress within the company was zero.

"He (Peters) found me not to be management material and he caused me great discomfort," says Warrington.

He quit within 90 days and started Robindale Enterprises, which became a successful advertising and marketing company holding the Hudson Bay Company as one of its accounts. He sold the company before rejoining 'OB.

Ted Smith says when Warrington left 'OB nine years ago, it was a loss to the company. "I'm a Ralph Warrington fan," he says openly from his office in Vancouver. "Ray Peters didn't have any fans. He was a television man, he didn't know radio."

Of the departed John Cochrane, Smith says: John and I had talked. He was struggling to do the things that had to be done."

Obviously, Cochrane, a pleasant and well-liked man who had been at 'OB about 30 years, couldn't slice up his friends. Warrington had to be the man for the job.

Smith knew things about Warrington that everyone in the radio business knew. He is a man reputed to have exceptional sales and marketing talent who knows radio inside and out. in 1987, he and several partners spent about $100,000 on a presentation to the Canadian Radio-Television Commission to gain a new radio station license. They lost out to the Selkirk-based CKQX/FM-104, owned by millionaire Winnipeg businessman, Robert Chipman, who also owns a string of auto dealerships and several other businesses.

Gerry johnson, a broadcasting consultant, told the CRTC at the time that if the QX station couldn't reach the Winnipeg market with a stronger signal, it would surely go under due to lack of revenue. Later in the hearing, the commissioners called on johnson, 62, to give his opinion as a long, time radio man on the revenue projections for Warrington's proposed station. johnson told the CRTC they were accurate, "if all the station's salesmen were as good as Ralph Warrington." The Warrington application failed to win approval.

Warrington himself is in no financial straits, thanks to his past sales abilities. He has a condo in Arizona, lives in another on Wellington Crescent, and entertains at a cottage on Lake of the Woods, where he is a cordial neighbor to the former Lt. Governor of Manitoba, Pearl McGonigal.

t was the condo in Arizona that

brought Warrington into a new era of

his life. He doesn't talk much about it,

but it did creep into the conversation.

His lower right leg was amputated d& june 2,1989.

The leg was a casualty of a fall he took in September, 1984, while hanging a painting in the Phoenix digs. He was in hospital there for two months, unable to walk, and in severe, ongoing pain. He suffered with the agony until last june, having undergone six operations to hold the leg together until a doctor advised him to get rid of it. He had some difficulty in finding a surgeon who would allow a base cast to be placed on the cut leg in surgery to hasten the wearing of a prosthesis.

Dr. Victor deKorompay, a Winnipeg orthopedic surgeon, agreed to separate Warrington from his painful leg. Dennis Eylofson, a prosthesist who fit Warrington with a prosthesis, said such imminent placement of the supporting limb is not usual practice.

It is done, but it's rare," says Eylofson. "Mr. Warrington was a determined man, though. He golfs a lot."

Maizelle Warrington, 45, says her husband endured six years of steady pain before he made the decision. "But, I'll tell you, he's not a complainer," she says. "He doesn't talk about the operations. He's had so many, he hates hospitals."

Warrington walked out of hospital five days after the leg was off, and by july he was driving his car again. He was soon golfing again as a 13,handicap player at St. Charles Golf and Country Club. The leg still bothers him after a long day at the office, but Mrs. Warrington says it's not anything like it was before.

"And about CJOB," she says. "These changes have been gut-wrenching for him. But he says he's been hired to do a job and he's got a long way to go."

Warrington has some definite ideas about where the station is going. One major target is getting the Winnipeg Blue Bombers playby-play broadcasts back it lost seven years ago to 1290 FOX. "I want the Bomber games back on 'OB because we're the home of sport in Winnipeg," he says emphatically. "Some people think we still do broadcast the games."

However, the Bomber broadcast rights are in the hands of 1290 FOX until 1991. The station is in the youth music market, and does well. It's a holding of Toronto-based CHUM Radio, which is owned by Alan Waters, who once owned the Ottawa Rough Riders of the CFL, and was a governor of the league as well. Bob Laine, general manager at 1290 FOX, is good-natured about Warrington's Bomber ambitions.

"This isn't just about broadcasting football games," he says. "The station has to have the ability to promote the team and fill the stands. We have just as good a 30-minute pre, game and postgame show as 'OB. If Ralph wants the Bombers, he'll have to bring a semi-truck-load of money."

Warrington's not prepared to do that. "We'll do everything except throw money away. We have to earn respect and we'll learn along the way about what we have to do. I won't bleed this radio station by overzealous spending. But 1290 FOX is a music station and when football is on, I always have this feeling they can't wait to get back to music."

For 'OB's new quarterback it's first down and many yards to go --- so stay tuned, and preferably, for Ralph Warrington, to CJOB.
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Title Annotation:Ralph Warrington, president of radio station CJOB in Winnipeg, Manitoba
Author:Gage, Ritchie
Publication:Manitoba Business
Date:Jul 1, 1990
Words:2432
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