Two New York talk radio stations – conservative WABC/770 and liberal WWRL/1600 -- have revamped their morning line-ups with new shows and new hosts.
WWRL, the Air America Radio flagship station in New York, the number one radio market, dumped its morning show co-hosted by Sam Greenfield and Armstrong Williams on Friday and launched a new show featuring two veteran lib talkers -- Richard Bey and Mark Riley.
Bey has racked up extensive experience as a talk show host and TV personality over the past dozen years. He was a weekday host on WABC, until he was fired in 2003 after coming out against the war Iraq. In addition, he has hosted comedy TV shows on WCBS/Chan 2 and WWOR/Chan 9 in New York.
Bey is teamed up with Riley, who co-hosted an AAR talk show with another funny guy named Marc Maron. It looks like WWRL is looking for same kind chemistry that has been sorely missed on the lib talk network since Morning Sedition was cancelled a year and a half ago.
The big news however, is the shake-up soon to occur cross-town on WABC. Last week it was officially announced and widely reported that Don Imus will be returning to radio as the morning host on New York’s number one talk station.
Imus, who lost his syndicated radio talk show (as well as his TV simulcast on MSNBC) after referring to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as "nappy-headed hos," replaces the duo of Curtis Sliwa and Ron Kuby, who had occupied the morning slot for over eight years.
According to Phil Boyce, vice president for news-talk programming at Citadel Communications, the owner of WABC, they will find a new slot for Sliwa, but it appears that Kuby the popular duo’s liberal voice, has been shown the door.
Asked about his abrupt dismissal, Kuby had the following comment:
"Our show has enjoyed the best audience: intelligent, compassionate, decent and kind. The new owners don't want that kind of show."
Boyce seems very happy knowing that Imus will part of WABC weekday line-up, which is without a local talker during AM drive, for first time since the station converted to talk in 1982.
"The truth is, the lineup is more consistent, top to bottom," he posted on the radio-info board.
"Now...I can drive traffic from morning to noon to night...and get that TSL up to astronomical numbers, which in turn gives me better shares."
However, it doesn’t appear that Imus will produce "astromical" shares for WABC. When the I-Man was carried on WFAN/660, he was consistently beaten in the ratings by Curtis and Kuby. Moreover, WABC has underperformed as New York’s top talker. In the most recent Arbitron survey the station’s average share was 3.1 – that’s 31% lower than KFI/640, the top talker in the number two L.A. Market, which recorded a 4.5 share.
Citadel plans to use WABC as a flagship station as they attempt to syndicate Imus' show.
Boyce doesn't see a problem with the fact Imus' show will be syndicated around the country, meaning it will almost certainly have less local content than Curtis and Kuby.
"I've found that if something interesting is happening in New York, the rest of the country wants to hear about it," says Boyce. "So we'll still be paying attention to what's happening here."
However, conservative blogger Brian Maloney is concerned about this development. He called the hiring of Imus, who he refers to as "the crusty old fossil" an "injustice" that "could send a number of ABC-Citadel staffers straight to the unemployment lines.
Maloney presented a list of the Citadel talkers that were at risk to be dumpled when Imus is syndicated. The list includes:
- WABC -- New York's Curtis & Kuby Show (this one is already a done deal)
- KABC /790 -- Los Angeles morning host Doug McIntyre
- KSFO/560 -- San Francisco's Lee Rodgers & Melanie Morgan Program
- WBAP/820 -- Dallas's WBAP Morning News with Hal Jay (and possibly part of Mark Davis's program as well)
- WJR/760 -- Detroit's Paul W Smith
This is not surprising. Since the passage of Telecommunications Act of 1996 which allow conglomerates like Clear Channel and Citadel to gobble up radio stations and replace local radio programs with syndicated shows and voice tracking, more than 50% of local talkers have been dumped and replaced with syndicated shows.