To the dismay of many staffers at allegedly all-news WTOP-AM (1500), management there decided Thursday not to interrupt its live broadcast of the Baltimore Orioles afternoon home game by airing the tape of Mayor Marion Barry being arrested at the Vista Hotel in January. The long-awaited, instant talk-of-the-town video was released to the media shortly before 2 p.m. by the U.S. attorney's office. After it had been aired on two other radio stations, a WTOP staffer said, "We are planning on playing it {the tape} after the game. It was a management decision."

Another said that many staffers were miffed by the decision.

Although the order to stay with the game was phoned in by news director Mike Rushlow, who had gone home sick earlier, the insider said newsroom employees suspected that the decision was made by a higher authority because "it does not seem like a call that {Rushlow} would make."

General Manager Michael Douglass, who last June criticized WTOP news editors for not breaking into a Birds game when a severe thunderstorm wreaked havoc in much of the city's upper Northwest section, knocking out power for nearly a week, acknowledged Friday that on Thursday morning "pending the release of the tape a decision was made to review it upon receipt and prepare it for airing after the game. It was a joint decision by Rushlow and myself." Douglass said, "We reviewed our decision and concluded that it was the correct decision. We've had no response from listeners, advertisers, anyone."

He refused to say what factors led to the decision, but staffers speculate that breaking from the Orioles network would have meant lost advertising dollars that could not be recouped. Douglass, however, did emphasize that the original audio quality of the tape broadcast on some TV and radio stations was not up to WTOP's standards.

At 2:02, WRC-TV aired an edited version of the tape, which it had obtained several weeks ago. News-talk WMAL-AM (630) simulcast the audio portion with Channel 4 while WMAL news anchor Ed Meyer read narration copy. At talk competitor WWRC-AM (980), program director Tyler Cox said the audio was run through a sound equalizer, and, minutes later, an improved version of the audio was aired (bleeping out Barry's harshest expletives) along with Cox's narration to listeners.

Walker, Alan and Smith Axed at WWRC

Washington broadcasting veteran Ed Walker and his partner of nearly three years, Bruce Alan, were the first victims of Greater Media's recently launched mission to gain an audience at WWRC-AM. Following their Friday morning drive show, the two were called upstairs to Cox's office and told their services were no longer needed.

The heads continued to roll. After her three-hour shift ended at noon, Bev Smith was given the same news from Cox, thus ending Smith's three-year conversation at WWRC.

M.L. Williams, who as "Mark Williams" was one of many tryouts for the station's recently filled afternoon talk job, took over the morning show yesterday. His most recent job was as morning drive host at XETRA-AM (that's right, five call letters, according to the '90 Broadcasting Yearbook) in Tijuana, Mexico, a 50,000-watt station targeted to San Diego. Additional staff juggling moved Joel A. Spivak into Smith's 9 a.m.-to-noon slot while WWRC van driver Joe Madison moved into the noon-to-2 p.m. job. Mark Davis's afternoon stint was increased an hour, now from 2 to 5 p.m.

Both Walker, 58, and Alan, 36, are looking for work separately and as a team.

Smith, who hosts a weekday evening talk show on cable's Black Entertainment Television, could not be reached for comment.

"This is not an easy day for me. These are all good people," Cox said. "It was a very difficult decision to come to, but the report card -- Arbitron -- shows that we are coming up short."

Tough Talk at WMAL

A month after WMAL-AM (630) management fired folksy John Lyon, listeners continue to gripe, somewhat to the dismay of WMAL staffers. Shortly before noon yesterday, as Lyon's replacement, Charlie Warren, concluded his two-hour talk stint, a woman ended an on-air conversation about the Barry trial by telling Warren she was unhappy about Lyon's dismissal, was unhappy about Warren as a replacement and didn't at all like syndicated afternoon gab guy Rush Limbaugh. (The next fellow who called echoed the feelings about Limbaugh.) The woman's remarks prompted a frustrated-sounding Warren to ask listeners to "tone down your comments. ... Over the airwaves is really not the place to do this." Warren said that complaints should be directed to management on another line. So far, the Capital Cities/ABC outlet has received more than 1,000 calls and several hundred letters from listeners complaining about Lyon's firing and the switch to talk.