Owners come and go, but the Radio from Hell morning show on X96 stays.
The show's trio of hosts, Bill Allred, Kerry Jackson and Gina Barberi, finalized a fresh three-year contract Friday with the station's future owner, Broadway Media.---
The contract was announced during Friday's broadcast, sparking jubilation on social media sites from Radio from Hell fans, many of whom tune into the show that's been a Utah morning mainstay for decades with a religious furor that's typically reserved for church.
“It's done and we're raring to go,” Allred says of the new contract. “We're excited about it.”
Speculation about the show's fate has swirled for weeks. Last year, the hosts reached a tenuous--and last-minute--one-year deal with the Simmons Media Group. With time running out this year (the current contract was set to expire at the end of March), the radio hosts openly pondered their futures on air.
This led to an outpouring of support from the show's fervent fans. Many commentators on Twitter said they tuned into X96 for one reason: to listen to Radio from Hell. “Broadway media (sic) is giving all the other stations time to prep contracts for the only radio trio worth listening to,” wrote one person. Upon hearing news of the new contract, Utah's Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox wrote on Twitter: “As a typical politician, I am going to take credit for the new @RadiofromHell contract. ...”
Since the show's inception in 1986, it has been a perennial breadwinner for the station, drawing high ratings and earning a warm spot in the hearts of a generation of Utahns.
Its relevance to Utah culture is evident in how it's fared under five owners. That Radio from Hell has continued to exist through this ownership turnstile is a testament to its value and its quality, Allred said.
The good news for ardent Radio from Hell listeners is that Broadway Media, which is still awaiting final approval for the acquisition of Simmons from the Federal Communications Commission, is that the new ownership is committed to keeping the beloved show on the air for years to come.
John Kimball, who oversees Real Media (Broadway Media is owned by Dell Loy Hansen, who also owns the Real Salt Lake soccer club) and was involved in contract negotiations, said keeping the Radio from Hell hosts at the station on a multi-year contract was a high priority.
“Everybody's pleased and everything's back in place, moving forward,” Kimball said. “We wanted to shore it up and make sure everyone felt comfortable and get a multi-year contract.”
Without divulging details, Allred said the contract negotiations were “difficult.”
“We didn't get everything we wanted,” he said. “But I think neither did Broadway Media. They made concessions to us and we made concessions to them.”
With the contract sealed up, Broadway and the Radio from Hell show plans to move, possibly by June, to a new location on 300 South between Main Street and West Temple in the old Chase Bank building.
Kimball said moving Broadway's quiver of stations, which along with X96 includes Mix 107.9, Rewind 100.7, The Eagle 101.5 and U92, will afford the opportunity to build new studios with an emphasis on the digital future.
In addition to higher tech studios, Kimball said station headquarters will include a medium-sized music venue, as well as a bar and restaurant. He said the company's emphasis moving forward will be on catering to local audiences.
“We're focusing on our market, our people, our community, our politics,” he said. “All of the things the morning show focuses on. … Local, local, local.”
Allred said Broadway's vision for the future was an important part of what sold he and his colleagues on sticking with X96.
“I think they have a pretty good idea of where to take radio and broadcast media in general,” he said. “They have a vision that we agree with and that vision helped prompt us to stay.”
On the show's resilience, Allred said the Radio from Hell show has been more fortunate than other morning radio shows. When a station is bought up, he said it's not uncommon for the new ownership to simply clean house and start from scratch.
But even with five ownership changes, Allred said Radio from Hell has managed to stay afloat through choppy water by drawing a sizable audience and remaining an asset to whomever takes the reins.
“We're unique in oh so many ways,” he said. “We're just an anomaly. Most radio people just don't stay together as long as we have.”
“And I don't know how we have done that,” Allred continued. “I don't know why we haven't been thrown out on our asses before. But we haven't—there have been threats. But it hasn't happened.” For that, the Radio from Hell faithful are thankful.