Miami Herald, The (FL) – February 29, 1984
Author/Byline: MARC FISHER Herald Staff Writer
Edition: FINAL
Section: LOCAL
Page: 1D

Neil Rogers, the bulky bad boy of Miami talk radio, won his walking papers in a Dade Circuit courtroom Tuesday, ending the acerbic announcer’s three months without a microphone.

Rogers, 40, the most popular talk-show host in South Florida for the past six years, won permission to take his act to WINZ (940 AM), beginning Thursday night.

Judge Leonard Rivkind freed Rogers from his contract with WNWS (790 AM), South Florida’s most popular talk station, thereby cleaning up the legal mess Rogers got himself into when he signed contracts with both WNWS and WINZ.

Just as the ruling has prompted another spin of the revolving door of Miami talk radio, the trial has revealed some of the inside practices of a secretive, sometimes viciously competitive business.

The ruling brought these changes: Rogers will start work at WINZ Thursday, broadcasting an 8 p.m.-to-midnight program, said WINZ general manager Stanley Cohen.

“The effect on WNWS will be devastating, I hope,” said Rogers, who has called himself the only fat, Jewish, atheist homosexual in the radio business.

To make room for Rogers, WINZ will “buy up the rest of Alan Burke’s contract,” Cohen said.

Burke, a radio and television staple in New York City and Miami for more than three decades, is being dumped, Cohen said, because he appeals to a largely elderly audience, while “Rogers’ appeal is across all demographic categories.”

Burke, 61, said late Tuesday that no one has told him he is being ousted.

“I assume I won’t be on Thursday night because I heard it on the radio,” Burke said.

Rogers was more blunt about replacing Burke: “Adios, Alan,” he said.

To replace Rogers during the evening hours, WNWS Monday night premiered its Tom Leykis Show, starring an announcer hired from an Albany, N.Y., station.

“We’re extremely bullish after having scoured the nation for somebody better than Neil Rogers,” said WNWS general manager Lew Krone.

“The new guy’s not in a league with Neil,” said WINZ general manager Cohen. “Apparently WNWS doesn’t think so either, or they wouldn’t have tried so hard to keep him.”

Last summer, while Rogers was on WNWS dispensing controversial views on the issues of the day and entertaining a vast audience with snippy comments and diatribes against local politicians, WINZ approached him.

WINZ wanted to hire Rogers after his WNWS contract expired in January 1984. Rogers said he was interested, but there was a problem: His WNWS contract prohibited him from working for any other South Florida station for a year after he left WNWS.

Rogers signed a two-year contract with WINZ anyway, hoping a judge would find the WNWS restriction invalid. The WINZ contract offered Rogers about $60,000 for his first year, up from the $50,000 he collected under his original WNWS pact.

Then, in September, Rogers renewed his pact with WNWS under disputed conditions. Rogers and WINZ say the announcer was coerced by WNWS officials who lured him into a surprise breakfast meeting and told him to sign the extended contract or lose $25,000 due him in deferred compensation.

Station owner Robert Sudbrink “told me he would make my life miserable and they would go to court” if Rogers didn’t renew his contract, Rogers testified.

By last fall, Rogers was under contract to both stations. Then in November, WNWS pulled him off the air, ostensibly for maligning station management on the air.

With the stations suing each other, and the remaining days in Rogers’ WNWS contract ticking away, the stage was set for the court battle.

WINZ attorney Chuck Kline said WNWS could not prevent Rogers from working elsewhere because Rogers was an independent contractor, not an employe of WNWS. Under state law, independent contractors cannot be restricted from carrying on their business.

WNWS admitted its contract with Rogers classifies him as an independent contractor. But WNWS attorney Norman Silber argued Rogers was nonetheless an employe because the station often told him what to do.

The judge disagreed, declared Rogers independent and threw out the anti-competition clause in the WNWS contract.

The decision will exacerbate the bitter, four-way competition among South Florida’s news-talk stations. The latest Arbitron ratings show WNWS in the lead with 4.2 per cent of the audience, followed by WIOD (610 AM) with 4.1, WINZ with 3.1 and WGBS (710 AM) with a 1.1

Caption: photo: Neil Rogers, Alan Burke
Index terms: BURKE END
Record: 8401150322
Copyright: Copyright (c) 1984 The Miami Herald