Jennings stuns radio by quitting Sports Zone

  • Sudden departure: Mark Jennings left Sports Zone abruptly on Monday after a scheduling conflict

Mark Jennings has quit the popular radio talk show Sports Zone over a scheduling conflict that put him in dispute with Inter-Island Communications.

Well known simply as “Burger”, Jennings plans to plough ahead with his Bermuda Sports Magazine Awards on November 24, despite it clashing with a gospel programme that is being promoted by his employer. The scheduled return to the ring of professional boxer Nikki Bascome on that same night raised more questions.

Former Cabinet minister Glenn Blakeney, the owner of Inter-Island Communications, contacted Jennings on Saturday after learning of his plans through an article published in The Royal Gazette to outline the conflict, prompting Jennings to bring about an end to a four-year-long partnership.

Jennings, who recently had his days and hours to deliver Sports Zone reduced, resigned with immediate effect on Monday afternoon.

Blakeney reacted by going on the show that night with David Brangman and freelance journalist Patrick Bean, a new member of the show, to inform the public of Jennings’s departure and to announce that Kim Swan would be the new host. Also appearing would be Brangman, Bean and Egbert Brown.

The radio station owner attempted to get Jennings to consider the date of his event, which will be held at Ruth Seaton James Auditorium and will honour past athletes and administrators.

“I called him on Saturday morning to express my concern with what I thought was a conflict, notwithstanding that we had already announced several months ago by way of commercial advertising of the event that Hott 107.5 was associated with, the spiritual connotation awards dinner,” Blakeney told the radio audience.

“Inter-Island Communications has no interest other than to support the marketing effort for that [gospel] event, an appreciation awards dinner to recognise two bishops who have done work here and made some valuable contributions to the society at large.”

Blakeney added: “Subsequent to that was the boxing event on the same date, featuring Nikki Bascome. I just did not understand why there would be the decision [by Jennings] to go with that date. The event that ‘Burger’ was planning was Mark’s event and doesn’t have anything to do with Inter-Island Communications.

“I wasn’t aware, and he didn’t say anything prior to going on the air to advise people about the event. When I spoke with him, he said he was planning to go on with the event and I said, ‘In that case, it is up to you; I can’t dictate if you want to do something worthy for the community’.

“The only thing I will direct you to do, so that there is clarity, is when you come in tonight to explain to the listeners that your event is not an IIC event, nothing to do with Inter-Island Communications, Magic or Hott and as long as you do that I’m fine.

“I have already had calls, ‘Why would you guys do a sports awards event on the same night as Nikki Bascome’s big event, his first fight on home soil under his new management team?’ I just didn’t want to offend the Bermuda Boxing Federation.”

Jennings said he explained to Blakeney that the date was already decided. “Donal Smith is holding his [spiritual] event on the 24th, which I didn’t know about. However, his event is on the same night as the boxing, at the same place, Southampton Princess,” said Jennings, who emphasised that each event will draw its own audience.

“He [Blakeney] said that the Government has similar awards, but the Government has awards more for current people, not as many people from the past as we’re going to do.”

Jennings says he will miss a show that had enabled him to connect with a dedicated audience, including Bermudians living overseas. “I love the connection I had with the people,” he said. “I liked talking about the old times in Bermuda — that’s what I’ll miss about the show.”

Bean, who only recently joined the show, was sorry to hear of Jennings’s departure. “It was a sad moment for me both professionally and personally to hear the matter of Burger’s departure from the show because he brought me on board, and I obviously have a great debt of gratitude towards my mate for opening the door for me to experience another journalistic genre,” Bean said.

“On the other hand, Mr Blakeney is the father of a great friend of mine, Glenn Jr, and has afforded me the privilege of coming on his station to talk about the thing I love and what, literally, keeps me alive these days ... sport.

“Burger and myself live and breathe sport, and I’m confident he will land comfortably and sport will benefit. Likewise, we will soldier on at Sports Zone with new host Kim Swan, who I also have a history with in covering him throughout a great deal of his professional golf career, as well as being a keen observer of his political exploits.”