Rocky D, Tessa and Baby J off air
Radio talk show host Rocky D is off the air, losing his job at WTMA-AM 1250.
So is the morning urban talk team of Tessa and Baby J, stars of "Da Breakfuss Club" at WWWZ-FM 93.3.
Both moves come about three months after the company that had owned the stations was sold to Atlanta-based communications giant Cumulus Media Inc.
Rocky D, a scratchy-voiced conservative who jabbered during the afternoons as "Radio Free Rocky D," was told by station management after his show Wednesday he would not be coming back. His departure ends one of Charleston's longest-running talk radio shows of recent times.
"The 10 years I spent at WTMA have been fun, and I wouldn't trade a single minute for anything," the host, whose real name is Rocky Disabato, said Thursday.
His exit from the storied 72-year-old station nicknamed "The Big Talker" leaves just one local on-air personality chattering from WTMA's North Charleston studios: Richard Todd of "The Morning Buzz."
WTMA's website shows that Disabato's former noon-3 p.m. time slot is being filled by nationally syndicated talk shows: an extra hour of libertarian commentator Neil Boortz's current program, followed by two hours of consumer advocate Clark Howard.
The website for Z93 did not show a replacement for "Da Breakfuss Club," but an industry report this week said it is expected to be "The Rickey Smiley Morning Show."
Terry Base, a local operations manager for Cumulus, declined to say why the two shows were dropped when contacted by The Post and Courier on Thursday.
Disabato said he was told he had become too expensive and that his contract, which ran out earlier, was not being renewed.
The end of his locally produced program is symptomatic of what's happening in the radio industry today, he added, saying that station operators are out to cut costs by going toward more syndicated broadcasts and away from locally produced segments.
"I think radio is in a world of hurt today," he said.
College of Charleston communications professor Chris Lamb said the growing push to cut costs is bad news for the information-dependent public as local shows, budgets, commentators and reporters disappear. He called the trend a "threat to democracy."
"Local people suffer because there's no local news," Lamb said. If there's a local disaster "there's nobody to report it," he added.
After Disabato signed off from WTMA, the former hosts of "Da Breakfuss Club Morning Show" posted a goodbye message on their Facebook page Thursday, saying the show "will no longer be a part of your morning routine due to corporate downsizing."
The message went on to say, "We regret that we were not afforded the opportunity to say our goodbyes as we feel that is what you deserve after supporting us for the past 12 years. With you, we have laughed, cried, joked, and argued. We will never forget you."
Tessa is Tessa Spencer, a Charleston native. In past interviews, Baby J has said he doesn't reveal his real name.
The radio stations changed hands in September, when Las Vegas-based Citadel Broadcasting was acquired by Cumulus for $2.4 billion.
The sale made publicly traded Cumulus a giant in the field, extending its radio reach to more than 570 stations in 120 markets. In South Carolina, it now has broadcasting operations in Charleston, the Midlands, Florence and the Grand Strand.
Before it was gobbled up, Citadel owned 225 radio outlets in 50 markets. About 10 were in South Carolina, including five in the Charleston area: WIWF: 96.9 The Wolf Country; WSSX 95SX Hit Music Now; WMGL Magic 107.3; WTMA-AM 1250 The Big Talker; and WWWZ Z93 JAMZ.