Jay Severin returns to Boston’s airwaves

Four months after being fired by WTKK Radio (96.9 FM), Jay Severin is returning to the air — this time with WXKS (AM 1200), a Clear Channel-owned station that has tried to build a talk-radio alternative around nationally syndicated right-wingers like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. The Boston Herald reports today that Severin will helm afternoon drive (3 to 6 p.m.) starting this Thursday.

Severin, who has a long history of making incendiary racial and sexual remarks, was canned after a preening, offensive monologue about his alleged swordsmanship with interns. More to the point, I suspect, was that his ratings had plummeted, making it hard to justify his reported $1 million salary. No word in the Herald as to what Clear Channel is going to pay him.

Rob Eno wonders if Severin might actually beat his replacement at ‘TKK, Doug Meehan, since Severin will be following Limbaugh — “gold in the talk radio game.” (Meehan’s lead-in is Michael Graham, so I can certainly understand Eno’s reasoning.) Problem is, Boston has always been one of Limbaugh’s weakest markets. Indeed, when Clear Channel converted ‘XKS to a right-wing talk station a couple of years ago, it called itself “Rush Radio.” Now it’s just “Talk 1200,” which suggests that executives don’t see Limbaugh as much of a local asset.

A far bigger issue is WXKS’s weak signal. Though promos tout its 50,000 watts of power, that doesn’t translate into listenability. Driving in from the North Shore earlier today, it wasn’t until I hit Revere that the static finally dropped to a tolerable level. Even liberal talk station WWZN (AM 1510), with its notoriously weak signal, came in more clearly.

As for Severin’s return, it will be interesting to see if anyone cares. Somewhere, Scot Lehigh is quietly celebrating. But I’ve missed it if anyone has been pining for Severin’s return to the Boston airwaves.

Is there more to Howie’s suspension?

Howie Carr

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.

Photo (cc) by Paul Keleher and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Original at Wikimedia Commons.