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Last week, Hilary, who had been a 91X DJ since 1997, was shown the door. Her firing is curious because recent Arbitron ratings indicate she was doing well. For the past two months, among listeners aged 18--34, Hilary's ratings beat competitor FM-94/9's by a ratio of about 3 to 2.

A request for comment was not answered by 91X program director Kevin Stapleford. Observers theorize that Finest City Broadcasting (which operates 91X, Z90, and Magic 92.5) may be cutting costs. The rights to operate these three Mexican stations were purchased by Finest City from Clear Channel last year for a reported $113 million. Insiders suggest that the debt service on that loan may be squeezing Finest City.

In recent months, Finest City has fired its director of sales and two other sales people. Last week, Todd "T-Ski" Romano, Z-90's midday DJ, was let go.

Meanwhile, both 91X and FM-94/9 are receiving favorable press. Last month, in a Union-Tribune article titled "Good Re-vibrations," Karla Peterson wrote that 91X was undergoing a "rebirth" as it reconnects with its '80s glory years.

In the new issue of Rolling Stone, an article titled "Rock Radio's Last Stand" identifies five modern-rock stations that "have managed to beat the odds" by not failing. (Nationwide, rock radio has lost about one-third of its Arbitron ratings over the past eight years.) The article gives a nod to 94/9 for its willingness to regularly play a song from an album issued by the independent Hellcat label (the Aggrolites' "Time to Get Tough").

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