Bill McNeal is the primary on-air anchor for the WNYX news radio station, alongside co-anchor Catherine Duke for most of the series' run. He often functions as an antagonist to station manager Dave Nelson, stirring up trouble among the staff or on-air for his own amusement. He acts pompous and entitled, and other staff members frequently seek to knock him back down to size. In addition to serving as the WNYX news anchor, he also airs short op-ed segments with his opinions on various issues, and eventually hosts a punditry-style interview show called "The Real Deal With Bill McNeal."
Bill is constantly battling a cigarette smoking addiction throughout the series, most notably in "Smoking" and "Shrink" as well as "Balloon." Despite his superior attitude and airs with those he feels are a class below him, he often is revealed to have virtually no command of basic facts and common historical knowledge. And he has a strong inclination to suck up to famous people.
There is an unbalanced-power relationship between Bill and Matthew Brock at the station, where Matthew worships Bill and Bill takes advantage of Matthew's naive or servile nature.
Catherine and Bill often get on each other's nerves but she gives nearly as good as she gets.
Bill seems to see himself as a social equal of Jimmy James because Bill is the senior member of the staff with the most established career, and in fact often calls him by his first name Jimmy; most of the rest of the staff typically call him Mr. James.
Bill McNeal is played by the actor Phil Hartman. The role was one of three conceived and written for a specific actor from the very beginning of the project by show creator Paul Simms. It was Hartman's first major role on television after leaving Saturday Night Live, where he had been a member of the cast for several years.
Phil Hartman died in tragic circumstances shortly after the completion of season 4 of NewsRadio. The season 5 premiere was entirely framed around his untimely death.