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Going, going…liberal commercial talk radio disappearing

Sean Hannity moves from WABC to WOR in New York City.
Sean Hannity moves from WABC to WOR in New York City.
The Sean Hannity Show

The radio dial in major cities is providing listeners with significant changes that lean to the right in the new year. One of the formats taking a big hit is liberal talk radio, which continues to lose audiences and shows to the much more popular conservative talk programs.

In New York City, WWRL 1600 AM will change its format to Spanish-language music and talk, which likely will incorporate liberal viewpoints but will push Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann, Randi Rhodes and Alan Colmes from the airwaves. Also in New York, stations with huge audiences and signals, WOR 710 AM and WABC 770 AM, are juggling and trading their conservative talk radio hosts, making each station stronger on the right in a city that just elected a far left mayor.

Rush Limbaugh (weekdays noon-3 p.m.) and Sean Hannity (weekdays 3-6 p.m.) are moving from WABC to WOR. In the on-air remake, WOR conservative morning host John Gambling retired (his last program aired December 20), ending more than 80 years of Gambling family programming that included his father and grandfather. He will be replaced in morning drive time by Elliot Segal, who many consider to be a shock jock and who has been summoned from WWDC-FM in Washington, D.C. His show, a significant departure from the norm for this longtime family-style station, will go head-to-head Monday through Friday with WABC’s Don Imus.

WABC has not yet announced who will fill Linbaugh's noon-3 p.m. weekday slot. Hannity's former WABC weekday 3-6 p.m. slot now will be covered by conservative Michael Savage’s The Savage Nation. Other conservatives who will continue on the talk radio station include Mark Levin, Aaron Klein, Monica Crowley, Jason Mattera, John Batchelor and the hosts (Eric Harley and Gary McNamara) of nationally syndicated overnight Red Eye Radio.

Fans of journalist and conservative talker Rita Cosby, who had been at WOR opposite Hannity, are wondering where she may land in the market. Liberal Geraldo Rivera will continue to handle the late morning weekday time slot on WABC.

Another New York City market talk radio station, WNYM 970 AM, also has a long list of conservative talkers (Curtis Sliwa, Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Denis Prager and Michael Medved) but it also features a few liberals such as former New York Governor David Patterson.

Left Coast Also Cancels Liberal Talk

In Los Angeles, KTLK 1150 AM will eliminate Stephanie Miller, Randi Rhodes, Bill Press and David Cruz in favor of Glenn Beck, Limbaugh and Hannity. The station will be re-branded as "The Patriot." In San Francisco, KNEW 960 AM will leave Miller, Hartmann and Mike Malloy without a radio home in the market. The station will re-brand itself as "Right Radio," and it will feature Limbaugh.

In the talk radio format, liberal shows do not captivate audiences and do not attract substantive advertisers. KTLK was ranked #41 in the Los Angeles market as of November 2013. In New York, WWRL was so low in the ratings that it barely registered. KNEW San Francisco recorded an audience rating of 0.4 during December 2013 and it ranked #31 in the market.

The only radio outlets in major markets that continue to carry a significant amount of liberal talk programming are the noncommercial stations that are affiliated with the government-supported National Public Radio. On television, ratings continue to erode for liberal slanted programming, with viewership declining on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC and the three original major networks. Meanwhile, Fox News continues to be watched by a growing number of viewers.

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