I don’t see how this move makes sense, but WRKO Radio (AM 680) has ousted longtime Republican political consultant Charley Manning from its 1-to-3 p.m. slot and replaced him with Boston Herald columnist Michele McPhee — who, in turn, had been dropped recently by ‘RKO’s rival, WTKK (96.9 FM).
Like many folks in the media and political community here, I consider Manning to be a friend, so it’s hard for me to be entirely unbiased. I was also a guest on his show recently. But it strikes me that Manning got little in the way of marketing or production assistance. Given that, it’s no surprise that his ratings lagged.
The Boston Herald’s Jessica Heslam reports that WXKS (AM 1200) — the home of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck — is tanking, and that it shows Boston may be a lousy market for right-wing radio.
She’s right, but the Clear Channel-owned ‘XKS is hardly proof, given its less-than-clear signal. The real story is farther down in her piece, where we learn that the city’s two major talk-radio stations, WTKK (96.9 FM) and WRKO (AM 680), are performing poorly as well. Both ‘TKK and ‘RKO are mostly right-wing.
Heslam makes no mention of it, but I’m sure the ratings for Boston’s one liberal talk station, WWZN (AM 1510), are minuscule, given its poor signal.
Fact is, talk radio was once a phenomenon, but now it’s grown stale. The only show on the commercial dial that sounds even remotely like talk radio in its Boston heyday is Dan Rea’s, on WBZ (AM 1030). Rea’s a journalist who knows how to ask questions, and he hosts a guest-heavy, non-shouting program that doesn’t grate.
That’s not to say there aren’t talk-show hosts in Boston who are doing a pretty good job. I’d cite Jim Braude and Margery Eagan on ‘TKK and Charley Manning on ‘RKO. But the glory days of Boston talk radio are over.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. So maybe Howie Carr’s suspension from WRKO Radio (AM 680) is just a suspension. But let me inject some uninformed speculation into the matter. The once-great station has been running on fumes for some time. Maybe its corporate owner, Entercom, has decided to force an end game, let Carr out of his contract and turn ‘RKO into an outlet for, oh, let’s say Spanish-language infomercials.
The Boston Globe’s Erin Ailsworth reports that Carr was suspended for a week for badmouthing the station on the air — something he has done continuously since he was forced into staying in 2007. (Apparently it’s gotten worse lately.) Carr is said to be unhappy that Rush Limbaugh’s syndicated show recently moved to Clear Channel’s WXKS (AM 1200), part of a national “Rush Radio” network.
Funny, but I thought one of the reasons the station replaced Rush with Republican political consultant Charley Manning was that Howie and Manning are buddies, and that Charley might keep the petulant star more or less in line. I don’t have any numbers in front of me, but Boston radio observers have long noted that this is one of Limbaugh’s worst markets. The idea of not fighting to keep Limbaugh and going with a local show struck me as pretty smart, even if Manning’s show is a work in progress.
Carr does seem to be wallowing in bitterness lately. For instance, he recently wrote in his Boston Herald column that President Obama wouldn’t have made it through college and law school if he weren’t black:
Of course, no one expects Barack Obama to really know anything. We understand, all too well, exactly how he got through Columbia and Harvard Law. He had certain … intangibles, shall we say.
That’s pretty rancid even by Howie’s standards. No, I’m not leaving anything out — the ellipses are his, not mine.
Back in 2007, Carr tried to jump to WTKK (96.9 FM), which wanted him as its morning guy. Unfortunately for Carr, he turned out to have a contract more restrictive than Curt Flood’s, and he was forced to stay.
What’s not known is whether Greater Media, which owns ‘TKK, still wants him. Morning drive is now ably helmed by Jim Braude and Margery Eagan. Would ‘TKK move Jay Severin out of afternoon drive to make way for Carr?
Moreover, given the changed economic climate, it certainly seems unlikely that Greater Media would still be willing to pay Carr $7 million over five years.
The other mystery factor is how much Entercom really wants WRKO to succeed. There’s a lot of audience overlap between ‘RKO and another Entercom station, WEEI (AM 850), a sports-talk outlet that also carries the Red Sox. No doubt the company wants WRKO to make money, but not at the expense of its more-valuable sports station.
Carr is a legitimate talent, but it’s been years since he’s showed more than an occasional glimmer. His suspension comes at a time when he probably has little leverage. Maybe he’ll be back on the air in a week as though nothing happened. But you have to wonder if Entercom executives have finally decided it’s time to do something drastic about its faltering talk station.
I am stunned to learn that Entercom has actually done something smart. Republican political consultant Charley Manning has been named to replace Rush Limbaugh’s syndicated noon-to-3 p.m. show on WRKO Radio (AM 680), reports the Boston Herald’s Jessica Heslam.
Limbaugh will be moving to Clear Channel’s WXKS (AM 1200), which is loading up on syndicated national shows. Perhaps Entercom can persuade Clear Channel to take Laura Ingraham and Michael Savage off its hands, too.
Congratulations to Manning, a good guy who, I’m sure, will do well.