The Web site of KMXZ FM 94.9, aka MIXfm, includes two statements about the change in the highly popular Bobby and Brad morning show. One of those statements, from Bobby Rich, paints the picture of an amicable split orchestrated by Brad Behan.
"It's hard to have someone leave but people sometimes move on to do other things. In the last 10 years (Brad Behan) has built a wonderful life for himself and his family in Colorado--while doing his part of our show from his house--and I wish him nothing but the best.
"I am committed to Tucson and to doing the best morning radio show possible."
Sometimes people move on to do other things--especially when they've been kicked out the door.
"I promise that we'll continue 'the good, clean fun' approach that you have come to love and expect," said Rich in the statement.
Good, clean fun has been the foundation for Bobby and Brad's decade-long run of ratings success, but apparently, things like honesty and respect are only offered as lip service to the listeners, and not the morning-show host.
That's what Behan found out the hard way on Oct. 16, when he got a surprise visit from Journal Broadcasting's Tucson radio general manager, Diane Frisch.
"She wanted to meet with me at a restaurant she was at, and when I met her there, she fired me," Behan said. "When I asked why, she said they were making a change, and that's all she could tell me. When I said, 'Why didn't I know ahead of time?' she said, 'It's not our policy to give advance notice.' She said they could fire me without cause, because I wasn't under contract. That's true. My contract expired a few years ago. I haven't been under contract in a long time. I still thought I would have known something ahead of time."
Being warned ahead of time is a delicate balancing act in radio. The management concern, of course, is if a fired talent is still allowed access to a microphone, that person could say things frowned upon by the Federal Communications Commission, or things that could shed a negative light on the company.
Still, according to Behan, the station was willing to allow him to say goodbye to listeners, as long as he lied about the reasons. In short, Behan claimed, Journal attempted to talk Behan into saying the decision to leave was his.
Behan said that during the short meeting with Frisch, he was handed what is called a separation agreement.
"They had written out what they wanted me to say on the air," said Behan. "It would be accurate to say (the agreement) said they wanted me to say I was leaving the show to pursue other interests. That's just not true.
"They fired me, and I have no idea what I want to do next. They even suggested what my other interests were--writing assignments and voiceover work--and they thought I'd say that. There was no way I was going to say something that wasn't true.
"That was the end of it. I haven't heard anything else from them. Had I said that, they would have given me what they call separation pay. A friend of mine in the business tells me that's not unusual, but Journal's (human resources vice president) told me they don't have a severance policy, but I was given a document dealing with something called separation pay. It came with that agreement written into it, that I would go on the air and say I was leaving to pursue other interests."
Many major radio conglomerates have a system like this. It's the follow-up to the now legally obsolete no-compete contract. If a departing employee signs a separation agreement and doesn't talk about the split, or toes the company line, the company will pay the departing employee. Sadly, most accept it, naturally concerned about needing a financial bridge to pay the bills.
Behan, who admittedly made a nice living from his relationship with Journal, stuck to his guns.
"It wasn't a lot of money. And it could have been $100,000, and I wouldn't have gone on and misled the listeners. That's just not who I am," said Behan. "I would love to have a little breathing room. It would have been great to have a little severance, but not at that cost."
Less than a week after his visit with Frisch--who had not responded to Tucson Weekly interview requests as of our press deadline--the ratings were released. Like ratings clockwork, the Bobby and Brad show was right at the top, the signature program on the only station in the Journal cluster that pulls its weight in the ratings.
"I got a note last week or the week before that we were No. 1," Behan said. "We're also in the middle of the fall book, and you don't do anything to upset the program during a ratings period. There are no rules that can't be broken, I suppose. It was very surprising and very unusual to do what they did at a time like this."
Behan says numerous people have gone to the trouble to track him down in an effort to discover the real story.
"A lot of listeners have been e-mailing me, as you might imagine," said Behan, who has maintained contact with his Tucson fan base through his domain at studio949.com. "Last year, when I went to Afghanistan, I wrote a blog so the listeners could kind of keep up with it, and put a different e-mail address on the blog so people could access it. I've kept it up since then, and I was stunned at how many listeners had that e-mail address and still read the blog. They came to me to try to find answers, and I was able to tell them I got fired."
For the 48-year-old Behan, after a long run in radio that dates back to working for KCUB AM 1290 during his college days, his career is in a state of uncertainty.
"People run businesses the way they want to run businesses, and I don't begrudge them that," Behan said. "We had such success, and I had, I thought, such a great relationship with everybody over the years. I'm honestly in the dark. ... I was hoping to find out more, but I honestly know nothing about the reasons.
"Bobby hasn't called me. The operations manager (Darla Thomas) hasn't called me. I tried to get some information from the corporate HR VP, and she finally e-mailed me, but that's when I figured I was going to know all I'm allowed to know. I didn't think there were any surprises left."