America’s most popular talk radio hosts, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, are expected to move their shows from New York’s 77 WABC AM to 710 WOR sometime next year, after the Clear Channel-owned station fired several hosts Thursday.
WOR made room in their weekday lineup for the first- and second-largest talk radio shows in the U.S. by firing three hosts: former New York governor David Patterson, who took over the drive-time afternoon shift from Steve Malzberg in September of last year; psychologist Dr. Joy Browne, who had been with the station for more than 15 years; and syndicated talker Mike Huckabee.
Several behind-the-scenes workers were also fired with the talent. Buckley Broadcasting, WOR’s outgoing owner, said in a press release that severance packages had been handed out. Clear Channel, who bought the station for US$30 million earlier this year, would absorb some of the staff.
Buckley Broadcasting president and chief executive Joseph M. Bilotta told the New York Times that Clear Channel had asked him to make the staff changes before the deal closed.
Clear Channel, which owns the syndication contracts of both Limbaugh and Hannity, is expected to move the talkers over to their new radio station some time in 2013. Cumulus Media, which both syndicates Huckabee and owns 77 WABC, will likely put him in Limbaugh’s spot at the station.
As first reported by The Right Perspective on February 10, speculation that 77 WABC would replace Limbaugh with Huckabee began circulating once Huckabee’s new show was announced.
While news of the switch first broke during Limbaugh’s battle to maintain sponsors after blasting birth-control activist Sandra Fluke as a “slut” on his show February 29, the move is more likely a simple effort to cut costs by Cumulus. The company has been replacing syndicated programming with shows it owns throughout the year.
Cumulus also pays a fee to Clear Channel to air The Rush Limbaugh Show. Clear Channel is also likely eager to boost its newly-acquired station with the largest names in talk radio.
While the Limbaugh move is looking more definite, Hannity’s switch over to WOR is less likely, according to industry website NY Radio Message Board.
Hannity’s syndication deal, which was set up in 2008, incorporates both Cumulus and Clear Channel. His show is produced at and broadcast from the Cumulus-owned WABC, while Cumulus reportedly has the rights to syndicate it to its own major market stations. Clear Channel has the rights to syndicate the show it elsewhere, and sell the advertising time.
It is also unknown when Hannity’s contract will expire.
“Let’s put it this way,” radio insider Tom Taylor told the New York Daily News, “the whole radio world would be shocked if Clear Channel does not move them to 710. There really isn’t any other reason for Clear Channel to have bought the station.”