Fired from his afternoon talk show in May by a station executive who considered the program too evangelical, Pat Miller will return to the station's airwaves Jan. 2.
“We'd prefer to broadcast our own announcement,” said Program Director Ryan Wrecker, who added that official word of Miller's return would be made on the air at 4 p.m. Friday. But Wrecker did say that listeners have responded well to Miller's sporadic fill-in broadcasts and predicted that “a lot of people will be glad he's back.”
Miller said he could not comment before Friday's announcement, but his departure in May triggered a tumultuous series of events at the station, which has long hosted several local and nationally syndicated conservative talk shows.
Numerous listeners questioned those conservative credentials after Director of Programming Operations Gregg Henson ended Miller's show and assumed his on-air duties. In June, Henson told The News-Sentinel that “I do agree with right to life, but I'm not evangelical about it. That's old-school talk radio. I'm more moderate that (Miller), who wasn't comfortable doing the kind of show I wanted.”
The change prompted some listeners to threaten a boycott against advertisers, which at one point caused Henson to criticize some of his detractors on the air -- a reaction that “crossed the line,” according to Mark DePrez, chief executive officer of WOWO's parent company, Federated Media.
DePrez relieved Henson of his on-air duties in June and for a time auditioned such local would-be replacements as former Republican mayoral candidate Matt Kelty. For the past several months, however, the 3 p.m.-6 p.m. slot has been filled by Casey Hendrickson, who also hosts a morning show on a South Bend station. Hendrickson's show there will move to the afternoon in January, which meant he could not do both programs.
Although Henson claimed Miller's ratings were not as good as predecessor Pat White's, the decision and reaction to it preceded several management changes. Henson was replaced in August, and DePrez – who had said he hoped to rebuild bridges with listeners – was part of a 12-person “work force reduction” later that month officials said had nothing to do with the controversy.