Three major figures behind the iHeart radio cluster of stations in Denver — program directors Greg Foster and Tim Spence, and Robbyn Hart, who's been a favorite on-air personality at KBCO for a quarter-century — are among those disappeared during the latest round of layoffs affecting the broadcasting giant.
The exits were first reported on June 21 by radio-industry website All Access. Foster and Spence have confirmed that they are no longer with iHeart but otherwise declined to comment. Hart has not responded to Westword, and neither has JoJo Turnbeaugh, region senior vice president of programming for iHeart, or corporate communications director Wendy Goldberg.
The metro area outlets under the iHeart radio banner are among the best known in the Mountain West. They include talk-radio specialist KOA, home of the Denver Broncos and the Colorado Rockies, heard at both 850 AM and 94.1 FM, as well as iconoclastic KBCO, classic-rocking 103.5 The Fox, top 40 fave Hits 95.7, alternative-rock pioneer Channel 93.3, country challenger 106.7 The Bull, syndicated conservative yakker Freedom 93.7, hard-rock trendsetter KBPI and venerable talker KHOW.
Dave Lauer, producer for the KOA program starring Mandy Connell, was also let go, according to All Access, and veteran KOA staple Mike Rosen will reportedly no longer be doing fill-in shows.
The radio pros at the top of the layoffs list have worn multiple hats at iHeart. In addition to hosting programs on KBCO since February 1997 (her first mention in Westword popped up later that year), Hart served as a morning-news personality on 103.5 The Fox and has been heard on KOA. Foster had been with iHeart and its predecessor, Clear Channel, for 22 years and was the senior vice president of talk programming, the program director at KOA and Freedom 93.7, and overseer of the Broncos and Rockies broadcasts; his Westword appearances included a 2011 post in which he explained why he'd given Rosen permission to use racial slurs when talking about proposed changes to an edition of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Spence, who came to iHeart after building up 104.3 The Fan (this 2008 post dates from his previous gig) programmed KHOW, was the assistant program director for KOA and KCOL in Fort Collins, and performed as affiliate-relations director for the Broncos and Rockies.
Layoffs have become a regular thing at iHeart, and not just in Denver. Back in January 2020, prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (which prompted furloughs in Colorado months later), as many as 1,500 jobs were slashed nationwide, including that of then-voice-of-the-Rockies Jerry Schemmel. At the time, an insider insisted to Westword that the company's revenues remained robust despite the challenges facing terrestrial media at the time, and iHeart's latest quarterly report, issued on March 31, boasts that revenue was up $843 million during the first three months of 2021, or around 19.4 percent.
Maintaining margins like these hasn't been easy. Back in January 2020, an iHeart memo referred to the thousand-plus layoffs as "dislocations" and hyped the use of artificial intelligence, or AI, as a key component moving forward.
The future for humans such as Hart, Foster and Spence, not to mention radio listeners in greater Denver, is another matter entirely.