The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

01 November 2007

Imus Return Could Wipe Out Local Programming


Imus Comeback Likely To Throw Local Hosts Out Of Work


Could the return of Don Imus throw a number of major local talk show hosts out of work?

If published reports and industry buzz (which we've been hearing for some time) are correct, the greatest injustice yet inflicted by the crusty talk fossil is yet to come, as his "comeback" could send a number of ABC- Citadel staffers straight to the unemployment lines.

For an industry already troubled by previous programming malpractice, this development has many diving into foxholes, waiting for the next missiles to hit.

Earlier this afternoon, WABC / New York apparently indicated that Imus's start date would be December 3 and the New York Post reports Citadel's other major talk stations are likely to carry the show as well:

While Imus will begin his return on that station alone-just six short months after being universally ostracized for calling the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos"--a source involved with the deal said it is "more likely than not" that the radio raconteur will eventually be syndicated across ABC Radio's 22 stations.

This source said that Imus signed a 5-year deal with Citadel that pays him between $5 million and $8 million annually.

Plans call for Imus' first show back to be broadcast on December 3, and while there had been talks about doing the show from a special remote location, the source said that has been shelved in favor of a traditional broadcast.

Imus is also in talks on a separate television deal akin to the one he had with MSNBC though the source was unsure if those negotiations would be wrapped up in time to announce a deal simultaneous with the Citadal one.

In August, we spelled out why between his history of low ratings, newly- skittish advertisers, advancing age and incomprehensible speech, Imus is a certifiably- bad move for WABC. But we now live in an age where radio company CEOs are personally micromanaging talk programming, with disastrous results almost across the board.

If the damage could be contained merely to WABC, talk radio might yet stand a chance, but with indications Don could be spread across dozens of ABC - Citadel stations, the medium could be in for a devastating blow nationally.

For one thing, Imus has been tried before on the West Coast, with rock- bottom results. Beyond the Northeast corridor, he was previously a non- entity in radio and there's no reason to believe he could perform any better this time around. He's boring, jerky, mumbles and is hard to understand. His resulting entertainment factor is zero.

Here are the hosts at the greatest risk of being terminated as a result of the I-Man's comeback:

WABC / New York's Curtis & Kuby Show (this one is already a done deal)

KABC / Los Angeles morning host Doug McIntyre

WLS / Chicago morning team Don Wade & Roma (right)

KSFO / San Francisco's Lee Rodgers & Melanie Morgan Program

WBAP / Dallas's WBAP Morning News with Hal Jay (and possibly part of Mark Davis's program as well)

WMAL / Washington's Grandy & Andy Show (seen right)

WJR / Detroit's Paul W Smith

in addition to many, many more if Citadel decides to extend the Imus mandate to smaller stations in markets such as Providence (WPRO), Albuquerque (KOB), Reno (KOH) and others.

Not only would talk radio as a whole suffer greatly from this move, conservatives would see airtime taken away from a number of solid hosts and given to a man who supported John Kerry for president in 2004.

Considering the great work done by a number of these people, in addition to solid ratings performance, it seems almost criminal to remove successful talkers from the air for the likes of Don Imus.

Until the day Imus retires, loses his voice, overdoses, or becomes so incoherent that not even Citadel execs can stand him anymore, radio is unfortunately stuck with this human albatross. But that's no reason to believe we can't stop him from ruining a number of great talk stations across the country.

NOT HAPPY about possibly losing your favorite local hosts? Let Citadel CEO Farid Suleman know about it: .

UPDATE: here's the AP's story, but this part doesn't make any sense:

The radio industry has eagerly awaited his return and the ratings he brought on his WFAN-AM morning show program, which had also been simulcast on the MSNBC cable channel.

Suleman's WABC-AM is already home to several syndicated hosts: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin.

Imus' national presence would trump the local Arbitron ratings, where his WFAN-AM show consistently drew fewer listeners than Sliwa and Kuby.

FRIDAY UPDATE: From today's New York Times:

In a telephone interview, Phil Boyce, vice president of news-talk programming for Citadel, noted Mr. Imus’s more than three decades of experience on New York City radio before adding, “The chance to get Don is something we couldn’t pass up.” Mr. Boyce said he expected other Citadel radio affiliates to carry Mr. Imus’s show, but he was not ready to say which ones. The Imus show will replace that of Curtis Sliwa and Ron Kuby.

Mr. Boyce said he hoped to find another place on the WABC schedule for Mr. Sliwa but did not expect to keep Mr. Kuby, a civil rights lawyer. Asked why, he said he had no further comment.

We're hearing Sliwa may slide into the mid-morning slot at WABC.

FOR Boston- area talk radio updates, see our other site.

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  • I guess this would also mean 102.3 WXLM drops its local its local program with Lee Elci. WXLM, based out of New London, is run by Citadel.

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 01 November, 2007 17:26  

  • Frankly speaking it doesn't matter. CBS messed up. And WABC is the winnners. Citadel Broadcasting headed by Farid Suleman doesn't take crud from N.A.B.J. nor N.O.W.

    Imus will make WABC/Citadel more money in a year then the 22 station affiliates make in 5. They are only local broadcasters.

    Sorry my friend. This time your question is moot.

    By Blogger Bruce, at 01 November, 2007 17:27  

  • A rising tide lifts all boats... All radio can expect a boost from Imus' return. Hosts with long-term talent will always find a place.

    Imus will be successful and local programming will find a place.

    Thanks Mr. Suleman, Imus has been sorely missed.

    By Blogger Phyllis, at 01 November, 2007 18:58  

  • Yippee, Imus is back and MSNBC is going down the tubes. How many layoffs. As Bernard used to say of MSNBC, "we report you decided not to listen."

    By Blogger Unknown, at 01 November, 2007 22:36  

  • Get your "I Love Imus" shirts, hats, buttons, stickers and more at:


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 01 November, 2007 23:30  

  • I really couldn't care less about who gets bumped off as long as we get back Don Imus. He is the best thing EVER in radio and television!My day has been incomplete since his departure, and I have yet to turn my channel selector to MSNBC ONE TIME since! I do hope Lou, Bernie and Charles are back with him. I HATE those SOBs who stabbed him in the back, and I hope he gets even, as I know he CAN!

    By Blogger Unknown, at 02 November, 2007 00:03  

  • Curtis & Khuby did very well locally, but Imus was a huge draw outside NYC, especially CT. & parts of NJ.

    Plus...really...who has the bigger name now? Bruce nailed it, as did Phyllis.

    And remember, please...CBS Radio has lots of markets where Imus wasn't carried...ABC may just make it available to lots of markets and not just ABC Properties.

    Great to see The I-Man & His Crew comin' back!

    By Blogger Nick Dragos, at 02 November, 2007 02:06  

  • ANY syndicated broadcaster hurts jobs. Sean Hannity has said as much in the past, shortly before he reached his 500 station mark.

    Look at the flip side: if, as you suggest, Don Imus won't bring ratings, then the displaced local hosts will find homes on the dial (yes, by displacing other hosts), and those stations will have a ratings boost at the expense of Citadel's stations..

    Or, perhaps, all ratings will increase.

    Brian, you aren't opposed to Capitalism/Darwninism in broadcasting, are you?

    I am looking forward to the return of Don Imus. While I know his patter will be restrained, I do hope his overall humor and interview skills will remain intact.

    By Blogger Charlie on the PA Turnpike, at 02 November, 2007 07:38  

  • Having worked as a Citadel N/T PD, Farid cares about one thing - money. And Imus won't make more for him scheduled on WLS, WBAP, even KOH, KOB and other solid Citadel medium market stations.

    In NYC, Imus returning is a great move. Elsewhere, forget it. And I programmed Imus in KC several years ago. We got results. Did we dent the market? No.


    By Blogger Scott Simon, at 02 November, 2007 08:17  

  • Jesus, Brian, we get it. You don't like Imus. As you well know, this is all about revenue, not ratings, so why all the hot air? Citadel bought ABC Radio, sees an available cash cow for mornings and is going with it. Despite the short-term strategy (Imus isn't going to be around forever), this is a good move revenue-wise.

    While I sympathize with what you poor bastards are going through in Boston with the idiots at WRKO, and the merely feeble incompetents at WTKK, this move actually makes business sense. Let's lighten up on the rhetoric a bit and look at ths rationally.

    By many inside-the-industry accounts, Imus is a bitter bitch, but the comments that brought him down didn't rise to the punishment. The spineless twits at CBS brought that on themselves. That Imus was able to put together a lucrative deal 6 months later (as most who follow the industry figured he would) is a well-deserved splash of urine on the CBS empty suits.

    By Blogger Sign Of The Times, at 02 November, 2007 12:48  

  • Just as long as they don't decide to kick Tom Barnard off of KQRS, I'll be fine with whatever they do.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 04 November, 2007 03:30  

  • Melanie Morgan off the air?

    Ah, Christmas has come early this year!

    By Blogger John, at 04 November, 2007 07:59  

  • The e-mail address you reference for Citadel's boss don't work. Can you give one that does?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 09 November, 2007 17:48  

  • As long as Citadel doesn't put Imus on ANY of their other major-market talk stations (besides maybe WLS), Imus will be very porfittably. Remember that WFAN was the highest-billed station in NYC with the help of Mr. Imus. Great move Citadel (just do it right)!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12 November, 2007 15:04  

  • You know... I could come down on either side of this. I loved the old Imus show and listened (or more often, watched) it daily. When I had client work I drove to always tried to find him on the radio dial as well... usually rinky-dink radio that would not have had a viable local host - they would have run some other syndicated stuff or just music. now that Imus has the potential to wind up on a pile of powerful urban stations, he is in fact going to bump off some popular local hosts- some of whom really carry the pulse of the country. So I dunno. Maybe they can split the time or bump them back. Doesn't matter to me - I'm going to listen to Imus on my laptop - whether in my office or in my vehicle. THAT is the new radio reality folks.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 03 December, 2007 19:14  

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