A push by Cumulus Media to solidify WLS AM 890 as a conservative talk station is forcing out the husband-and-and-wife team of Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano as midday co-hosts. Their show has been airing for the last year from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.
Starting January 1, WLS will add a Washington-based syndicated talk show hosted by Chris Plante from 9 to 11 a.m. and return Rush Limbaugh to a live broadcast from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the station announced Wednesday. Limbaugh has been airing on delay from noon to 3 p.m.
To accommodate the moves, the morning duo of Big John Howell and Ramblin’ Ray Stevens will air from 5:30 to 9 a.m., and Steve Dahl’s afternoon show will air from 2 to 6 p.m.
“Listeners made it very clear they wanted to hear Rush Limbaugh live,” Peter Bolger, operations manager and program director of WLS, said in a statement. “People want to call in to the show. And in this busy news cycle, it’s important he talk about what’s happening in real time. This lineup, with local icons Big John and Ray as well as Steve Dahl, and strong hosts with a national perspective, is a spot on response to what our listeners said they wanted and expected from WLS AM 890.”
In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, WLS languished in 26th place with a 1.5 percent audience share. Among listeners between 25 and 54 — the prime demographic for advertisers — the station tied for 30th place with a 0.7 share.
Marv Nyren, vice president and market manager of Cumulus Chicago, praised Sirott and Murciano, but said the style of their show was not compatible with the station’s renewed political format.
“I hope we continue to have conversations with Bob and Marianne about various opportunities going forward,” Nyren said. “They’re two of the most respected, professional people I ever worked with. But we need to pick a lane. The lane we’ve chosen to be in is the conservative talk station in this marketplace. We just don’t think that’s what they bring to the table.”
Sirott and Murciano previously hosted middays on Tribune Broadcasting news/talk WGN AM 720 from 2013 to 2015 and co-anchored “Fox Thing in the Morning” on Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 from 1994 to 2000.
For Sirott, the move to WLS marked a return to the station where he first rose to stardom in 1973 as a 23-year-old Top 40 disc jockey on the Big 89. He segued to television in 1980. “Few people know my original WLS contract was a really good one,” Sirott once joked. “They gave me a 37-year vacation.”