Radio Experts: Beck, Hannity Losing Philadelphia Market 'A Big Blow'

Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

Being knocked off of WPHT Radio in Philadelphia, the city's top talk radio station, is a significant blow to Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, according to several local and national radio experts.

Those who spoke with Media Matters following the announcement Thursday that Beck and Hannity would no longer be heard on the station after January 17, said losing a top ten radio market will affect the duo's national standing.

"That leaves Hannity and Beck without a good strong affiliate in that market, and not a lot of prospects," said Katy Bachman, who covers radio for MediaWeek, an industry publication. "That is a blow to both of those guys to lose that market. Philadelphia is a top ten market and to lose it is a big deal."

Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers Magazine, called the loss of that market "very significant."

"If you are on the top talk station in Philadelphia, that is a good thing. Philly is an important market."

WPHT did not even mention Beck or Hannity in its formal release announcing the change. The move gives up much of the station's daytime programming to two local personalities, among them Michael Smerconish, who is also syndicated.

Arbitron, the radio ratings group, ranks Philadelphia the eighth-largest market in the United States.

WPHT, meanwhile, is the 10th highest-rated radio station in the market out of 43 stations, and the highest-rated talk station.

"The idea that [Beck] is not being heard in this market hurts him and Hannity," said Michael Klein, who covers radio for the Philadelphia Inquirer. "If you are not on the air in a big city, it is a big blow." He later added, "it is an ego blow, they all want to be in the top ten. They do not want to be locked out."

Jack Klotz, who teaches media and communications at nearby Temple University, said the loss of the Philadelphia station to Beck and Hannity "could be a hit. It seems like it would be fairly big. They are a big talk station."

Ironically, Beck was once based at WPHT earlier in his career, doing his syndicated show from its studios between 2002 and 2006.

Premiere Radio, which syndicates Beck and Hannity, did not indicate if a new station for the two personalities in the same market had been found. Asked to comment on their removal from WPHT and if a new home had been found in Philadelphia for them, Premiere spokesperson Rachel Nelson sent the following statement:

While it's our policy not to comment on the business of our affiliates, we've appreciated our partnership with WPHT and look forward to sharing exciting news about The Sean Hannity Show and The Glenn Beck Program in the future.

Some observers said WPHT's decision may be a move to locally-based personalities more than a response to overall content. That could also hurt Beck and Hannity if it becomes a trend elsewhere.

"It is a concern around the country about local radio having value," Harrison said. "Local is something that many, many stations are flirting with."

Klein said the change could be less about ratings and more about revenue, noting that using a local personality could be more profitable if it draws certain advertisers.

"Say they spend $50,000 to hire Hannity, a number I am making up, and they bill $60,000 in ads, they make a profit," Klein explained. "But if they can have someone local to fill the spot for less and bill the same or more, that is more profitable."

He did say that Smerconish, a well-known voice on the station already, is less-conservative than Beck or Hannity: "He has always been labeled a conservative, but he is more centrist than Beck or Hannity. Our market is pretty centrist."

WPHT officials could not yet be reached for comment.

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