Dropping homegrown talent for syndicated fare; enables Rush Limbaugh to be live again in Chicago
As first reported by Robert Feder Wednesday, longtime Chicago media personalities Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano were shown the door (again), this time at Cumulus Media’s WLS-AM as the station canceled their 10 to noon morning show after only one year.
WLS had high hopes for the duo when the hiring was announced in December 2016, after a short stint at WGN-AM. But ratings were poor and weren’t a good fit between Big John Howell and Ramblin’ Ray Stevens morning show and Rush Limbaugh’s syndicated show.
Replacing them is a syndicated show hosted by Chris Plante. A Chicago native, Plante covered the military and Pentagon beat for CNN. He joined WMAL-AM in Washington, D.C. with a conservative/libertarian leaning talk show, and in 2016 became syndicated through Cumulus’ syndication arm, Westwood One.
“I look forward to being the Washington embed, giving a first-hand description of what’s happening in Washington and what it can mean to my hometown of Chicago, where I grew up listening to WLS!”, Plante said in a press release announcing the move.
As a result of the change effective January 1, Rush Limbaugh, syndicated by rival iHeartMedia’s Premiere Radio Networks, returns to a live 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. broadcast, as Sirrott and Muricano’s hiring pushed into a time-delayed noon- 3 p.m. time slot. Steve Dahl’s show moves up an hour, from 2 to 6 p.m., and Big John/Ramblin’ Ray shifts from 5:30 a.m. to 9.
Operations manager and program director Peter Bolger said the changes were made because listeners preferred to hear Limbaugh live and not on a delayed basis.
The move marks the first change under new boss Marv Nyren, who was named Cumulus vice president and market manger last month. It appears the station is shifting back toward conservative talk after drifting toward a more general-format genre the last few years (similar in style to WGN), but results have been disappointing as Jonathan Brandmeier and now Sirott/Muricano have each struck out, with neither of them known for political talk. With the departure of the husband-and-wife team, Cumulus can take two salaries off the books as the Atlanta-based company recently filed for Chapter 11.
In addition to the above, WLS runs conservative talker Mark Levin in the evening when there isn’t a White Sox or Bulls game.
While the press release notes the station is happy to include Dahl in the lineup, he isn’t known as a big political talk personality. It would be interesting to see how Dahl meshes in with the rest of WLS-AM’s decidedly more right-leaning direction.