Thomas M. Finneran, the disgraced former Massachusetts House speaker hired by WRKO-AM as a morning talk show host, will leave the radio station after five years.
Finneran, who pleaded guilty to a felony charge of obstruction of justice in 2007, said in a statement that he is giving up the morning drive-time show because of unspecified opportunities that were “not compatible with the hours I keep in the effort I make to prepare for, and to execute, a well-informed show every morning.” He could not be reached for additional comment.
In an e-mail, Jason Wolfe, WRKO’s vice president of programming, said that he and Finneran discussed the host’s departure over the past week before concluding that “given the opportunities that are out there for him, it would be best to part ways now.” Wolfe did not provide specifics about the opportunities.
Finneran’s parting with WRKO appears amicable, with his last day scheduled for Thursday. His cohost, Todd Feinburg, will continue to host the morning-drive program solo.
Finneran has recently been a focus of investigators looking into the patronage scandal in the state Probation Department, which has resulted in federal criminal charges against three top agency officials. As speaker of the House in 2001, Finneran pushed through a law change that concentrated hiring power in the hands of a protege, former probation commissioner John J. O’Brien, making it easier for legislators to recommend insiders for jobs.
Finneran declined in 2010 to answer questions from an independent counsel investigating the agency about his role.
Finneran joined WRKO in February 2007, after his guilty plea in a case arising from a legislative redistricting plan adopted during Finneran’s tenure as speaker. Finneran, who resigned from the House in 2004, lost his job as president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council and was stripped of his law license.
The show debuted as “Finneran’s Forum,” but got off to a rocky start as Finneran failed to question guest caller, Governor Deval Patrick, on several key issues of the day — despite prompting from a producer. Finneran was joined by Feinburg, a veteran of talk radio, in late 2008, and the show became known as “Tom and Todd.”
The show, which received tepid reviews through the years, ranked 14 out of 27 in its time slot at the end of March, with about 2 percent of the Boston market's audience, said Wolfe, citing ratings by Arbitron Inc. of Maryland.
Scott Fybush, editor of the trade journal NorthEast Radio Watch, said Finneran’s departure from WRKO “is a recognition that Finneran was never a radio guy.”
“It was a convenient opportunity for him to do something that would give him some sort of income,” Fybush said, “and an opportunity for some redemption.”
Fybush also said Finneran’s decision to leave the show is indicative of the struggles within Boston’s talk-radio market, especially as Clear Channel Communications Inc. of San Antonio, Texas, the nation’s largest radio broadcaster, has featured popular programs such as conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh. In addition, advertisers have become wary of pushing their products on controversial shows — a staple of talk radio.
“Everybody who is in that niche is trying to find a better spot,” Fybush said. “There are probably more players in the market right now than it can sustain.”