Updated May 11 with audio from his last show.
Ted Bird announced Monday morning that this is his last week at CKRK (K103) in Kahnawake.
Bird told listeners the decision to leave was a mutual one between him and station management: “It was mutually agreed that it’s time to move on.”
That’s true. But it might be more accurate to say that Bird is leaving because K103 simply can’t afford to keep him any longer.
Bird joined K103 as its new morning show host in April 2010, a few months after his sudden departure from CHOM. It was for a year, then renewed for a second. Throughout that time, radio watchers have been wondering how long the perennially cash-strapped 250-watt station could keep paying a commercial radio veteran to be part of its morning show.
He hinted at that on air. “My first choice would be to stay, but the realities are it’s not going to happen,” he said.
Since Terry DiMonte announced he was returning to CHOM from Calgary, people have been wondering about the possibility of a Terry and Ted reunion. Bird put inevitable rumours to rest right away by saying this move was not a precursor to a Terry and Ted reunion. He said only that he has “a couple of possibilities over in the city” as far as his next move.
You can listen to Bird’s announcement here (MP3, 5:08)
Despite making it clear he wasn’t going back to CHOM, some fans (Tom Messner!) are fantasizing about a Terry and Ted reunion. While Bird doesn’t reject that as a possibility in the future, the truth is that CHOM or Astral simply hasn’t contacted him since he left. There’s been no attempt to rebuild the bridge that was so thoroughly scorched by Bird when he left, even though the station is under new management, which says there’s no personal animosity.
Bird made it very clear on air and when I talked to him later that he enjoyed his time at K103. “This has by far been the most fun I’ve ever had in radio,” he said. “It’s two years I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
And it showed. With cohosts Java Jacobs, Paul Graif and more recently Matty Pots, the chemistry was very strong. Bird and Jacobs especially worked well with each other, and you could tell that when they burst out laughing in studio it wasn’t because they were forcing themselves to.
Similarly, the station’s management seemed to be pleased with what he has done. Joe Delaronde, who was the chair of its board of directors and is now one of its programming consultants, said Bird “has done everything he was supposed to do and more” for the station, was a team player, made appearances at community events and helped bring up the level of professionalism at the station, providing good training for young Kahnawake community members who worked there.
Bird’s arrival was supposed to help bring in new audiences and hence new advertising. Delaronde said it succeeded on both counts. He said they did a survey of 250 people by stopping them in the street (CKRK doesn’t subscribe to BBM monitoring so it can’t really calculate its reach outside Kahnawake), and found only 0.9% of respondents said they never listened to the station. On the advertising front, Delaronde said revenues went up 1000%.
“The vast majority of people were very happy,” Delaronde said. Happy enough, apparently, that a Facebook group quickly started with comments from people demanding that the mutual decision be reconsidered and that Bird stay at K103.
Not everyone in Kahnawake was happy when Bird came around. Some complained that the station was seeking someone from outside to run things, spending money on a commercial radio guy when it could have been better spent on training and employing Mohawk talent. Many of those opinions were posted on a Facebook group along with others that supported Bird. Bird acknowledged those negative opinions about his arrival in a column for KahnawakeNews.com. Those voices, though, seemed to be in the minority compared to those who thought Bird was a way of increasing the profile of the station and, by extension, the community.
Delaronde downplayed opposition to Bird, blaming it on people who will complain about anything. He said the station has never lost its identity as a community station.
Graif, who you might recognize because he used to work at Global and occasionally fills in on the sports desk at CFCF, said Bird’s departure was “a big loss” to the station. “I’ve never had this kind of chemistry before. It made getting up at these ungodly hours easy.”
So what’s next?
For Bird, the next move is in motion, but nothing is set in stone yet. There are strong rumours about a deal to join CKGM’s morning show, but Bird would not comment on them and CKGM station manager Wayne Bews didn’t return a phone message seeking comment. The move would make sense, since the morning show has been down to two hosts since Denis Casavant left to devote more time to his work at RDS.
For K103, the show goes on with Jacobs, Graif and Pots. Delaronde mused about maybe adding a female voice to the morning show, but there have been no decisions made yet.
Bird says goodbye
UPDATE (May 11): Bird did his last show Friday morning. You can listen to Bird’s farewell message here (MP3, 1.1MB, 4:59)
Meanwhile, Delaronde writes a post for Radio in Montreal giving some context to the decision to part ways. He explains that Bird’s salary was paid at least in part by “private sponsors” who, it seems, were not willing to keep their funding going past the end of the second year.