WNTR-AM (1050), the Silver Spring flagship for televangelist Pat Robertson's conservative talk network that is described as "the station that's Right for Washington," may be wrong for cash flow.

Several insiders report that WNTR is suffering a cash crunch and earlier this month was threatened with a power cutoff when the Potomac Electric Power Co. bill went unpaid.

"We had an electric bill that was over 30 days {due} but we never were in jeopardy of being cut off," said General Manager Pat Korton, adding that he was unsure about the amount of the station's monthly Pepco bill or how much was owed. Korton acknowledged that the station suffers from the financial troubles that "all 1,000-watt AM stations suffer from."

The station's programming is simultaneously broadcast to Oklahoma City's KKNT-FM and WCNT-AM in Charlotte, N.C., both of which are owned by Robertson's Broadcast Equities Inc. About a dozen other stations are affiliates of the round-the-clock conservative network, which drops to 43.7 watts of power on WNTR at night.

Korton admitted that on at least one occasion within the past two months an employee's paycheck bounced after WNTR failed to make a bank deposit in time to cover payroll. Station insiders said the employee was midday host Cliff Kincaid, but both Kincaid and Korton declined to discuss the incident in detail.

The ratings-anemic station sold political campaign ads in the fall for less than $10 each. But now, said Korton, WNTR sells local one-minute spots from about $25 to as much as $60 during top-rated weeknight "Battle Line" from 4 to 7. Nine network spots during "Battle Line" sell for about $200 apiece.

The station, which is scheduled to move in the spring into new studios a few blocks away, continues to operate with failing equipment. Tape cartridges frequently misfire commercial spots, interrupting a talk jockey's chatter.

And until recently when Korton bought new microphones for the studio, it wasn't unusual for staffers to see a host slam his coffee mug against the mike to make it work.

WNTR has had other troubles. Last week, ABC News surprised the station with a 90-day notice that it would move its Direction news to talk competitor WWRC-AM (980) in mid-March. Just a month ago, Arlington-based NBC Radio News stunned WWRC when it announced that it would move its news network and Talknet evening programming to WPGC-AM (1580) on Feb. 17.

WWRC-AM: Still Putting It All Together

Along with signing on ABC's Directionnews network, WWRC also picked up ABC syndicated talker Sally Jessy Raphael for weeknights from 7 to 10. She has not been heard in this radio market since leaving NBC Talknet 39 months ago. WWRC Operations Manager Tyler Cox still has programming holes in the talk station's 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. schedule. Meanwhile, at WNTR, Korton said he is unsure what news network his station will pick up but that both CBS Radio and the Mutual Broadcasting System have several networks that are not being heard here other than the ones heard on WTOP-AM (1500) (CBS) and on WGMS-AM/FM (570/103.5) (Mutual).

Christmas Doings

Comic Jonathan Winters performs all male character voices and sound effects tonight at 7 on WETA-FM's (90.9) presentation of Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol." Mimi Kennedy provides the female voices. The show repeats at 8 p.m. on WAMU-FM (88.5). Also at 8, WETA offers the Smithsonian Chamber Orchestra performance of Bach's "Christmas Oratorio," lasting until 10 ... WCXR-FM's (105.9) Paul Harris plays surrogate Santa this morning, handing out certificates for batteries to the powerless -- people who got gifts with batteries not included. The number is 202-432-1059. His extended show runs to noon. On Friday, the second annual "Best of Harris" features 4 1/2 hours of 1990's best bits, song parodies and guests, including Connie Chung, Bob Costas and Maury Povich, starting at 5:30 a.m. Harris's annual "Jerk of the Year" poll will be conducted during the show. Harris said that three-time winner Marion Barry is out of the running but that the award has been named in hizzoner's honor. Meanwhile, the classic rock station counts down its Top 500 Classics beginning Sunday at 8 a.m.

Shop Talk

John Hickman, 46, who hosts WAMU-FM's (88.5) Sunday night vintage show, "The Big Broadcast," from 7 to 11, is in the intensive care unit of Washington Adventist Hospital after suffering a stroke two weeks ago. Ed Walker, now recovered from his own stroke in late September, will host the program until Hickman's return. Coincidentally, Hickman was a producer for Walker years ago when he and Willard Scott were teamed as the "Joy Boys."