Rush Limbaugh, the most popular radio talk show host in America for more than two decades, is moving to AM 750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.
Limbaugh will take WSB’s noon-to-3 p.m. weekday time slot starting Monday. Oct. 1.
“When you have the biggest talk personality on the biggest news/talk station in Atlanta, I expect the chemical reaction will be positive,” said Ben Reed, Atlanta market manager for Cox Media Group, which includes The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Our listeners will benefit from it.”
Limbaugh has been on news-talk 640/WGST-AM since the late 1980s and consistently has been the station’s biggest draw.
For WSB, Limbaugh’s arrival means several changes to its weekday lineup:
- Syndicated talk show host Neal Boortz, now based primarily out of Naples, Fla., will see his daily stint cut back an hour. He will be on the air from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Boortz is retiring in January and will be replaced by businessman and former presidential candidate Herman Cain, who had already planned to do three hours a day.
- Consumer advocate Clark Howard, who has been with WSB radio since 1991 and is now heard on more than 220 stations nationwide, is moving to the 8-10 p.m. slot from his current 1-3 p.m. time period. Howard — who recently began co-hosting an HLN TV news program from 5-7 p.m. weekdays called “Evening Express” — will still tape his Atlanta-based radio show from 1-3 p.m. because other markets will continue to run it live. He explains the changes on his popular website www.clarkhoward.com.
- Syndicated radio and Fox News host Sean Hannity’s program will air live from 3-5 p.m., but WSB will be adding a news program from 5-7 p.m. Erick Erickson, who runs the website RedState.com will be the show’s host/commentator. Hannity’s third hour, from 7-8 p.m., will be tape-delayed (Erickson has been hosting a talk show from 6-8 p.m.).
- Local talk show host Adam Goldfein gets pushed two hours later to 10 p.m. to midnight.
- Syndicated financial expert Dave Ramsey also gets moved two hours later and will start at midnight instead of 10 p.m.
WSB, which ranked ninth in Atlanta Arbitron ratings in August, has lost some steam since All News 106.7 (WYAY-FM) hit the airwaves in May.
“Summer is usually very tough for news talk stations,” Reed said, “so I don’t panic when I have a month that dips in the summer.”
WSB’s new 5-7 p.m. news program will try to counter that.
“Atlanta depends on WSB for news, weather and traffic information, and now WSB will provide even more,” Reed said.
Limbaugh has remained a durable powerhouse in radio despite controversies he has faced over the years. He is heard on more than 600 stations nationwide and draws more than 14.75 million listeners each week, according to Talkers magazine. Hannity is the nation’s second most popular radio host, with at least 14 million listeners a week.
WGST, which was a soft rock station in the early 1970s, went all news in 1977 and morphed into news/talk in the 1980s.
Howard, Boortz, Hannity and Ramsey were all personalities previously on WGST, which was competitive with WSB in ratings in the 1990s but now lags far behind. WGST ranked 21st in the August ratings.
Word is that WGST has laid off several people today in preparation for a likely format change. Right now, while Rusty Humphries is normally airing, WGST is running a Glenn Beck repeat. (He normally airs from 9 a.m. to noon.)
“I think I speak for a lot of people who used to work at GST to say that this is a very very sad day to see this happen,” said Mike Rose, who worked at the station from 1985 to 1998 in roles including producer and program director. “It was a great operation, a family-like atmosphere. It cultivated a lot of the great performers on radio today.”
The two likely formats available are syndicated comedy or Spanish sports talk, said Eric Seidel, who was station manager from GST from 1986 to 1997 and developed Howard and Hannity. “Hannity was a diamond in the rough when we found him and he got his radio legs with us,” Seidel said. And Howard was an accidental talk show host who started covering travel as a travel agent and adjusted into talk show work with Seidel’s help.
The station was ahead of its time when it was simulcast on FM from 1993 to 200 at 105.7 and its ratings were competitive with WSB for a time. Losing that simulcast hurt the station’s power, which slipped steadily throughout the 2000s as its core listeners moved further outside its AM grasp and outside the Perimeter.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk