Inqlings: Talker shuffle ousts Beck, Hannity

The always-sunny Sharon Pinkenson at Sun Center Studios with (from left) Danny DeVito, Rob McElhenney, and Kaitlin Olson.
The always-sunny Sharon Pinkenson at Sun Center Studios with (from left) Danny DeVito, Rob McElhenney, and Kaitlin Olson.
Posted: November 21, 2010

Last week's bold decision by CBS-owned talk station WPHT-AM (1210) to revamp its lineup after New Year's - shifting Michael Smerconish from mornings to afternoons; hiring Chris Stigall from Kansas City, Mo., to do mornings; moving Dom Giordano to middays - leaves no room for syndicated hosts Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.

WPHT aims for more local programming. "Advertisers love the 'live read,' and there's more they can do with a local host," says Tom Taylor of Radio-Info.com.

Note, though, that WPHT went only so far. Rush Limbaugh, talk radio's 800-pound gorilla, will retain his noon-to-3 p.m. slot.

WPHT's overall ratings, Phillies games aside, are only so-so. In October, it was 16th among 28 stations in the 25-to-54 age group and 11th among its 35-to-64 target, according to Arbitron.

Stigall starts his Philly show Jan. 3 at 5 a.m. He's conservative, "but not a fist-pounder," says WPHT's Andy Bloom.

Smerconish's jammed schedule and CBS's desire to keep him seem to have inspired the shake-up. He has been hosting morning and afternoon programs, writing columns for The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News as well as books, and filling in at night on such outlets as MSNBC. Effective Jan. 17, Smerconish moves to 3 to 7 p.m., bumping Hannity. The first hour of Smerconish's program will be local. Nighttimer Giordano will get Beck's 9 a.m.-to-noon shift. No decision has been made for nighttime, says Bloom.

Taylor thinks the new lineup increases the variety of viewpoints and opinions. "Rush, Hannity, and Beck - on some days - can be a nine-hour block of similar talking points. You pretty much know what you're going to get."

WPHT's actions have sent syndicator Premiere Radio on a search for a Philly home for Beck and Hannity. Under national-ad guidelines, the two need an outlet in all 10 top radio markets, and Philly is No. 8.

But who wants them?

Apparently not Clear Channel, even though it owns Premiere. Clear Channel Philadelphia market manager John Rohm says he does not plan to reformat a station to talk, even low-rated Spanish outlet WUBA-AM (1480).

Not Greater Media, whose market manager, John Fullam, says he has no plans to create a talk station, even on WPEN-AM (950), which simulcasts the sports-talk FM station 97.5 the Fanatic. "We're staying the course," Fullam says.

Hannity and Beck could land on conservative talker WNTP-AM (990), which has a potent signal. Execs from owner Salem Communications did not return calls.

Another wild card is WHAT-AM (1340), which sources say is weighing a sale and a change of format. Station officials have not returned calls for comment.

Is it 'Safe'?

Safe, the action thriller starring Jason Statham as an agent who rescues a girl and fights off bad guys, shut Broad Street for several nights last week as it worked at the Bellevue. Monday's filming will be out of sight - inside trains in SEPTA's Fern Rock repair yard. Tuesday's schedule has a gun battle raging on 18th Street between Walnut and Chestnut Streets. The fun continues Wednesday inside an apartment near the Church Street station of the Market-Frankford El.

Worst cook?

Matt Crespi gets a pass from preparing Thanksgiving dinner. The 25-year-old Germantown Academy grad from Ambler is a contestant on the next season of the Food Network reality series Worst Cooks in America, premiering Jan. 2. Crespi, a Wharton alum, is working on his doctorate in public policy and management at Carnegie Mellon University.

The circuit

Sean Christopher, 34, of Royersford, proposed to Yolanda Milton, 30, at the Kimmel Center after Monday's Garrison Keillor show. Christopher had made a contribution to permanently inscribe his name alongside Milton's in the center's glass panel - the exact spot of the proposal - so the gesture will live on, "etched" in history.

Teen dream Justin Bieber fielded grief for rocking a Yankees cap during recent shows. Perhaps atoning, the Canadian signed a Flyers sweater here last week for Comcast-Spectacor's charity. It's on eBay until Monday afternoon; see it via http://go.philly.com/bieber

Leapin' lizards! Not only is comedian Wanda Sykes starring in Annie, opening Friday at the Media Theatre (Sykes, who lives in town, plays Miss Hannigan), but so is JP Dunphy, 24, son of Temple basketball coach Fran Dunphy and his wife, Ree. The DeSales grad plays Mr. Bundles.

Last weekend's festivities marking the 25th anniversary of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office included a very well-attended party Sunday at the new Sun Center Studios in Chester Township, which will host film work starting in January. The toughest ticket was the Friday night soiree at the Wynnewood home of Eagles owners Jeffrey and Christina Lurie, who had Le Bec-Fin's Georges Perrier cooking for a cast of Philly-linked talent, including filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan and his wife, Bhavna; producer Lawrence Bender; director Jonathan Demme; Greater Philadelphia Film Office head Sharon Pinkenson; It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Danny DeVito, Rob McElhenney, and Kaitlin Olson; Tony Danza; David Morse; Kim Delaney; Gov. Rendell; Mayor Nutter; Jane Saul of the Greater Pennsylvania Film Office; Bob Lowry of DIVE; and assorted connecteds: lawyer Justin Wineburgh; David and Dorothy Binswanger; publicist Nicole Cashman; and David Haddad, whose blue trucks house film equipment.

Delaney and builder Jeff Orleans joined Thursday's grand-opening party for Invincible Pictures' Philadelphia Sound Stages in North Philly. Chad Ginsburg of CKY was there, as were Schoolly D and Ryan Banks, who did an impromptu performance.

Somebody call Geraldo

A time capsule buried next to the Spectrum under the Kate Smith statue will be opened Tuesday during the arena's demolition. It was buried during the statue's dedication in October 1987. The statue has been moved into storage. Comcast SportsNet will show a live special at noon on TV and at CSNPhilly.com.


Contact columnist Michael Klein at mklein@phillynews.com. Follow his blog at http://go.philly.com/insider and on Twitter @phillyinsider.

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