WLS To Drop Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano; Add Chris Plante

890 WLS Rambin Ray Stevens Big John Howell US 99.5 WUSN Lisa DentCumulus Media News/Talk 890 WLS Chicago is revamping its lineup for 2018.

Exiting the station are 10am-12pm hosts Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano. The married couple joined WLS one year ago after previously hosting together at WFLD-TV, 105.9 WCKG, and 720 WGN. Sirott was previously a DJ during the station’s Top 40 heyday from 1973-1980. They will be replaced by Cumulus’ syndicated Chris Plante. Plante, based at 630/105.9 WMAL Washington DC will air live from 9am-11am.

Along with the addition of Plante, Big John Howell and Ramblin’ Ray Stevens’ morning show will move from 6-10am to 5:30-9am, Rush Limbaugh’s show will move back to a live clearance from 11am-2pm instead of being delayed one hour, and Steve Dahl will move up from 3-7pm to 2-6pm.

Cumulus Media-Chicago announces an enhanced new programming line-up for Chicago News/Talk radio station WLS-AM 890 featuring live broadcasts of The Chris Plante Show and The Rush Limbaugh Show. Beginning January 1, 2018, The Chris Plante Show, nationally syndicated by Westwood One, will broadcast live on WLS-AM 890 weekdays from 9am-11am, with The Rush Limbaugh Show returning to a live feed from 11am-2pm weekdays on WLS-AM 890.

Peter Bolger, Operations Manager/Program Director, WLS-AM 890, said: “Listeners made it very clear they wanted to hear Rush Limbaugh live. 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.”  
Marv Nyren, Vice President/Market Manager, Cumulus Media-Chicago, said: “With the addition of Chris Plante, I’m pleased that we have great continuity between the end of Big John and Ramblin’ Ray’s show at 9, and the start of Rush at 11. It just makes good sense.”
After 17 years at CNN assigned to the Pentagon and covering U.S. military and intelligence communications, Chicago native Chris Plante joined Washington, D.C. News/Talk radio station, WMAL. In 2016, his program was nationally syndicated through Westwood One. Plante brings a unique world-view to radio, and largely conservative/libertarian values to his role as talk show host. Although he hastens to add he marches in lock step with no politician, Chris says his political party is “Practi-crat”, “…because of my distinctly practical political leanings.”
Plante said: “I look forward to being the Washington embed, giving a first-hand description of what’s happening in Washington and what it can mean to my hometown of Chicago, where I grew up listening to WLS!”
Added Bolger: “This line-up, 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.” 

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  1. northernexposure says

    How can the same company that can run an entertaining, contemporary FM talker in Chattanooga be so clueless about creating relevant talk radio on a heritage AM signal in Chicago? Amazing. Doubling down on ideological talk and syndicated no less.

    1. Nathan Obral says

      The legacy ABC Radio talkers, including WLS, have been paralyzed for years by the outdated Phil Boyce groupthink that nothing but ironclad conservative boosterism trumps (heh) anything else, even their audience simply shrinking and dying off.

  2. StogieGuy says

    >>Doubling down on ideological talk and syndicated no less.<<

    Ideological talk IS the format. So often, I see people complaining about "ideological talk" on WLS and similar stations. Well, guess what? That's what they do. And, when they try to water down the format with "non-ideological talk" the ratings stay pretty dead. Besides, there's WGN for "non-ideological" talk and they do that better than Cumulus could ever do in Chicago. Look, you may not like what is said on WLS but that's the format, just as progressive talk is the format on WCPT. And there's an audience for that brand of talk. Without conservative talk stars like Limbaugh, WLS would be down at the bottom of the ratings barrel with the various forgotten AM signals on the dial. Look at KSFO San Francisco: although not the market leader by any stretch, they do far better with conservative talk on that 560 kHz signal than any other format would there. The format brings ears to stations that would otherwise not have many at all. Yes, Cumulus could spend millions to get the rights to the Cubs, Bears, and Blackhawks and go all sports, but who are we kidding? They'll never do that. And the all-sports format is pretty well covered. Not that spending $$ on the White Sox and Bulls has helped much anyhow.

    Now, your argument about syndication is more relevant. But clearly someone looked at Sirott and Marciano's numbers and decided that the ROI isn't enough. Frankly, I don't think that Dahl's show in PM drive is very good either and it breaks format. WISN in neighboring Milwaukee gets excellent numbers with mainly local conservative talk that is very well programmed (and they limit daily syndication to Rush and evenings). WLS would do better to emulate that formula with more local (and conservative) talk. To be fair, I actually listened to Plante today when I was in the Washington area and he's actually pretty good. But I do tend to favor local hosts myself. That said, personally I never found Sirott and Marciano's show very interesting. And I say that as someone who has a great deal of respect for their talent. It's just that their topics tended to be the sorts of discussions that talk radio featured in the 70s and early 80s; really neutral stuff. Again, there's WGN for that and they do it a whole lot better.

    It's foolish to say "Chicago is a liberal town, nobody listens to right-wing talk". The market votes 40-45% Republican, which is a lot of potential listeners for an AM signal. Do that well and you can get decent enough ratings to make a go of it. Face it, AM signals don't have many format options these days.

    1. Beachguy says

      Excellent post, StogieGuy.

    2. Jack Bayes says

      Mr. Cigar makes excellent points. Also, Cumulus’s main contribution in Chattanooga is leaving it alone. The format predates their ownership. It may even predate Citadel.

      1. Eric Jon Magnuson says

        I’m pretty sure that WGOW-FM’s Talk format does indeed predate Citadel. Also, WGOW is one of the best current examples of separate Talk formats on a heritage AM and a newer, co-owned FM with the same calls; another may be Saginaw’s WSGW, although the specific programming there may not vary as much.

    3. Nathan Obral says

      WLS’ ratings cratered after the tragic end to Don Wade’s career, and the lineup went into chaos. Then they plugged in Big John Howell, Brandmeier and Steve Dahl – three absolutely incompatible hosts – into a mishmash of a lineup.

      I wouldn’t know how to rebuild the station, but what they’ve been doing hasn’t worked, and this won’t work, either.

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