In this Jan. 13, 2009 file photo, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh… (Ron Edmonds / AP File Photo )
Reporting from Washington — Rush Limbaugh will be leaving a prominent conservative radio station in Philadelphia in exchange for Michael Smerconish, a man seen by many as a more moderate conservative. The station, WPHT, is in one of the largest radio markets in the country, and is the third station to lose or drop the conservative radio personality since the firestorm of controversy regarding comments made by Limbaugh toward Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke.
CBS Radio, which owns WPHT, released a brief statement on the lineup change.
“Premiere (Limbaugh’s syndicator) recently notified WPHT they will be syndicating Rush Limbaugh on a new station in Philadelphia. As a result, we are pleased to be able to now showcase Michael, who is a well-known and acclaimed broadcaster in the market, in this new time period.”
The announcement comes on the heels of the first broadcast of “The Mike Huckabee Show” on Monday, which features the former Arkansas governor lining up right alongside Limbaugh’s coveted 12 to 3 p.m. slot. Portrayed as a “safer” alternative, Huckabee’s show debuted on nearly 200 stations. Limbaugh, however, is still broadcast on more than 600.
The initial inclination is to highlight the outcry over Limbaugh’s most recent controversial comments, which have sparked a nearly 4,000-person-strong petition aimed at WPHT on SignOn.org, a subsidiary of MoveOn.org, as the cause for Limbaugh’s departure. The public response has been matched by Limbaugh’s advertisers, more than 100 of which pulled their support in the wake of his remarks.
Steven Biel, the director of SignOn, said that it’s “highly unlikely” that Limbaugh’s comments about Fluke and these events at WPHT are just a coincidence. Biel cited 400 petitions regarding Limbaugh aimed toward 190 stations nationwide, just on SignOn alone, as evidence of the breadth of public unhappiness with Limbaugh.
Brian Glicklich, Limbaugh's spokesman, rejected the claims that the host's comments are the cause of the move from WPHT.
"MoveOn’s latest claim is also their latest lie,” Glicklich told the Daily Caller. “The station change in Philadelphia has already been discussed by CBS, and it has nothing to do with a tiny petition. Rush’s audience in Philadelphia is 200,000 weekly. Moveon.org is simply incapable of honesty.”
There’s another factor at play in the post-Limbaugh shuffle: localization.
Smerconish is a Pennsylvania native, and his show is based in Philadelphia. But he isn’t aired live in the city, and is instead put on a time delay until after Limbaugh’s broadcast, an issue that will be amended by WPHT’s newly opened time slot.
“I have missed not having the chance to take WPHT callers in every hour of my program and am ecstatic that this will soon change. WPHT seeks to be live and local, no one is more local than me!" he said in a statement responding to the changes.
WPHT announced a similar move in late 2010 when it decided to drop Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, two other prominent conservative hosts, in exchange for Smerconish and another local host, Don Giordano.
The New York Times’ Brian Stelter reported that Limbaugh may be moving to Philadelphia’s WKDN, which is anticipated to make a change from a Christian station to one focused on talk radio. WKDN, though lacking WPHT’s 50,000-watt signal, is an FM station, and a move from AM to FM stations has been a recent trend for Premiere.
“I don’t think people will be satisfied with him moving from a large station to a smaller station,” Biel said, hinting that no matter where he’s broadcast from, Limbaugh’s words may continue to haunt him. But in this case, it looks like controversy wasn't the cause of Limbaugh's departure.
Original source: Rush Limbaugh pulled out of popular Philadelphia radio station