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WBAL Radio cancels Rush Limbaugh - My News: and You! are welcome to it! Agreement not required

Mar. 16th, 2006

01:56 am - WBAL Radio cancels Rush Limbaugh

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Station is first to drop show, wants to focus on local news
http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/news/bal-to.rush14mar14,0,5079892.
story?coll=bal-home-headlines


By Rob Hiaasen
Sun reporter
Originally published March 14, 2006

Rush Limbaugh, one of the most popular and polarizing radio
personalities of
recent years, has been sacked in Baltimore.

WBAL-AM Radio has canceled Limbaugh's syndicated call-in talk show,
saying
it wants to focus on local news and hosts. It is the first station to
cancel
the show, which is heard in nearly 600 markets, according to
Limbaugh's
syndicate, Premiere Radio Networks.

"In this market at this time, we just think we can perform better
without
him," said Jeff Beauchamp, station manager and vice president at WBAL.
"It
was a great run, though."

After a decade in Baltimore, the conservative talk-show host will no
longer
be heard on WBAL after May 31. Sandwiched between local hosts Chip
Franklin
and Ron Smith, Limbaugh has been a WBAL mainstay in its noon-to-3 p.m.
time
slot. WBAL, fourth among adults in its market and fifth among
listeners age
12 and older, has seen Limbaugh's ratings decline. According to
Arbitron,
which rates radio stations, Limbaugh's audience share on WBAL dropped
27
percent last fall compared to fall 2004.

Limbaugh, however, was No. 1 for his time slot among adult males,
Beauchamp
said. "But his ratings are not at the lofty level they once were.

"There's no doubt Rush is an American icon," he said. "It's not a
personal
thing, it's not a political thing. It's about being successful and
giving
listeners want they want."

Station research has shown WBAL listeners want more local news
coverage and
more local voices discussing community issues, Beauchamp said. Radio
has
become "homogenized and vanilla," and a syndicated program, such as
Limbaugh's, does not fit into the station's plans for expanded local
coverage, he said.

Limbaugh's departure doesn't necessarily signal that Baltimore has
lost its
taste for conservative radio, Beauchamp said. "Ron Smith is
conservative,"
he said. "People still have a taste for conservative radio. Rush is an
individual taste."

Jayson Loviglio, an assistant professor of American studies at
University of
Maryland, Baltimore County, said yesterday that he credits Limbaugh
with
inventing a new style of radio talk-show host, but that his
cancellation in
Baltimore might have been inevitable.

"Rush was really the Elvis of right-wing talk radio. But you just
don't need
him anymore with so many other places to get what Rush brought before
anyone
had it," said Loviglio, whose 2005 book, Radio's Intimate Public,
discusses
how the medium shapes American life and popular culture. "If this is a
trend, he's a victim of his own success, because he's no longer a
voice in
the wilderness."

WBAL's decision to expand local coverage makes sense if local radio is
to
survive, Loviglio said. Listeners can get opinions from podcasts and
other
newer media outlets, but who is going to talk about electric rate
increases
or local athletes? Not a syndicated talk-show host, he said.

"WBAL is actually starting an important trend," he said. "The only
thing
broadcast radio has to offer in the next 10 years is localism -- as in
providing voices of people from your community talking about issues
from
your community.

"There's no other point of broadcast radio."

Despite losing one local affiliate, Limbaugh remains popular
nationwide.

He is heard by an estimated 20 million weekly listeners on nearly 600
radio
stations, and the number of his affiliates has remained consistent,
according to Premiere Radio Networks.

"The station decided to go all local, so the syndicated program
goes --
whether it's the biggest talent in the business or somebody else,"
said
Premiere spokeswoman Amir Forester. "We're looking forward to
announcing a
new home in the near future."

Premiere said Limbaugh will air on another station June 1, but
declined to
elaborate. Limbaugh is still carried on Maryland radio affiliates in
Frederick, Frostburg and Salisbury.

Tim Graham, an analyst with the Media Research Center, a conservative
media
watchdog group, also played down the significance of the Limbaugh
cancellation in Baltimore. "If you have 600 stations, losing one
market is
not something to worry about. If you go from 600 to 500, then you have
a
story," Graham said. He added that Limbaugh's publicized hearing loss
in
2001 and rehab stint in 2003 were more cause for concern about the
state of
conservative radio.

"Those were moments when you could really worry, but I don't think now
is
one of those times," he said.

Still, Beauchamp said, WBAL's cancellation of Limbaugh's show was a
"bold
move." Over its 15-year history, The Rush Limbaugh Show has gone off
the air
in markets where radio stations have switched formats. But this is the
first
time his show has been canceled, according to his syndication company.

The radio station posted its new lineup on its Web site yesterday --
along
with a reminder that Limbaugh can be heard through May 31, and
listeners can
hear his show on his Web site. Limbaugh's departure will mean expanded
programs for talk-show hosts Franklin and Smith. Beginning June 1,
Franklin's program will air from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Smith will
add an
hour to his program, airing from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. WBAL-AM Edition, a 5
a.m.-to-5:30 a.m. news program, will also debut in June.