Dr. Laura Schlessinger has found a new home at Sirius/XM starting in 2011.
“It’s the last bastion of uncensored free speech,” she said in an interview today. “Things are getting tighter and tighter on terrestial radio.”
She has a multi-year deal though Sirius/XM won’t specify how long. (She is currently airing from 1 to 3 p.m. daily on 1160/WCFO-AM in Atlanta.)
Her major complaint is that there are too many political groups harassing her for every little things she says on AM/FM, citing Al Sharpton and Media Matters in particular. Media Matters posted the audio in August when she used the N-word 11 times to a caller who asked about how to respond to people who use racial epithets.
That was the last straw, she said.
“They go after my affiliates and sponsors, threaten them and boycott them” she said. “It was distracting and annoying. It got ridiculous. I’ve had enough.”
Being called a racist, she said, was abhorrent to her. “I’ve supported inter-racial dating, adoption and marriage for years.”
Her comments about censorship echo those of Howard Stern, the often crass “shock jock” who moved to satellite in early 2006 but has not said yet whether he’ll stay when his contract is up at the end of this year.
Schlessinger, 63, said she plans to broaden her three-hour show to include interviews with experts about issues, something she rarely does now. She’ll fly into New York from Los Angeles and hold forums at Sirius/XM studios with an audience.
She already has Sirius/XM wired in her house: “I listen to 60s music.”
She also said kind words about her affiliates, most of whom stuck around even after she announced she was leaving AM/FM. “I admire the people who supported me,” she said. “I’m forever grateful. It’s too bad our society is going this way. It’s hitting Juan Williams. It’s hitting Rick Sanchez.”
Though her numbers on WCFO-AM in Atlanta were modest at best, nationally she has remained one of the top talk show hosts in the country, ranking in the top 10 of Talkers Magazine estimates with 8 million-plus weekly listeners.
Though Sirius/XM has broken 20 million in subscribers and 35 million listeners, it’s unlikely she’ll be able to match that figure under the current set up.
Schlessinger, known for her espousal of marriage and stay-at-home mothering as well as her forceful mien, was a top-rated show in Atlanta during mid-days in the 1990s on what was then 750/WSB -AM. After Clear Channel-owned Premiere syndication picked her up, she was moved to Clear Channel’s 640/WGST-AM in 1999. She started live there in the afternoons and her ratings suffered. They moved her to mornings, then nights, then off the station completely by 2004. In the end, it was not a good fit.
Amazingly, nobody in Atlanta picked up her again until 1160/WCFO-AM did so in the fall of 2008.
“She never got great ratings but it was wonderful to sell,” said Jeff Davis, general manager on WCFO-AM. ” Clients recognized the name immediately.”
Davis was not pleased with Schlessinger’s actions in August because it cost him a show. “She seems pretty unrepentant,” he said. Davis is not sure who he will replace her with.