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Rush Limbaugh will leave major AM radio stations in Los Angeles and San Francisco in order to help anchor some lesser-known channels in those markets that will be rebranded as conservative talk, people familiar with the plans from Clear Channel Media and Entertainment said Thursday.
The strategy could leave some left-wing talkers, such as Stephanie Miller, Bill Press and Thom Hartmann, without a home in a couple of very large, liberal-skewing markets.
In Los Angeles, Limbaugh’s top-rated show will no longer be heard on KFI AM 640 beginning on Jan. 2 and instead be on KTLK AM 1150, which is to be rebranded “The Patriot” with an all-conservative lineup that will include Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, which means the latter will be leaving TalkRadio 790 KABC in Los Angeles, according to insiders. Also in the lineup is Clark Howard, known less for politics and more for doling out advice to consumers.
Beginning the same day, KFI will become a channel that focuses more on local issues. Limbaugh’s 9 a.m.-noon slot will be filled partially by Bill Handel and partially by Bill Carroll, according to insiders.
Clear Channel, which owns both KFI and the soon-to-be Patriot, is making a similar move in San Francisco, where Limbaugh will jump from Talk 910 KKSF-AM to 960 AM KNEW, which will re-brand as “Right Radio.”
Both KNEW and KTLK feature an array of talkers on both sides of the political spectrum, though presumably the ones who lean left will no longer be welcome after the two channels are rebranded, and Clear Channel didn’t specify the fate of the several left-leaning shows that currently reside on the two channels.
Displacing liberal talkers who have smaller audiences is nothing new to Limbaugh, who has been a thorn in the side of the left since taking his show national in 1988. He is the nation’s No. 1 talk-radio host, featured on 600 channels and attracting an audience of up to 20 million people per week. He also is a constant target of left-wing activists, with groups like Media Matters for America frequently issuing missives to journalists nationwide that outline the host’s latest alleged transgression.
Insiders say that with the shake-up in Los Angeles, Clear Channel is signaling that a strategy it has tried in smaller markets — like Houston, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Boston — has been successful. In those markets and others, the giant radio company moved Limbaugh from dominant stations to underdeveloped ones, then rebranded them conservative and turned them into more profitable ventures.
Insiders also reiterated previous reports that, in New York, Limbaugh will ditch 77 WABC Radio, run by Cumulus Media, for WOR Radio 710, which is owned by Clear Channel. That switch will also occur after New Year’s Day.
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