OMW hears that NextMedia oldies WHBC/1480 Canton, as long rumored in This Space, is finally bringing on the talk.
We hear from many sources this evening that WHBC veteran afternoon drive host Brice Lewis was let go after his Thursday program.
And sure enough, the station has done the "Soviet-style purge" of Mr. Lewis from its website.
Listed on the WHBC schedule 3-7 PM now is "Afternoons on WHBC". Lewis is also off the station's "On-Air Personalities" page as of today.
OMW hears that taking his place in the afternoon drive slot will be a name that's no surprise to anyone who has been reading this missive in recent weeks - Brady Russell, who did something of a talk tryout for WHBC a few weeks ago on a Sunday evening, and who we hear now gets the shot for a 5 day-a-week talk radio gig.
Russell returns to his former radio employer, and even to his old time slot, only on the AM side instead of the FM side. He was the afternoon driver at sister AC WHBC-FM/94.1 "Mix 94.1" until he was let go after a controversial comment in 2005 prompted listener complaints.
In his new role, Brady will likely have somewhat more leeway, as he'll be on an AM station moving more and more towards talk, and somewhat likely with a strong conservative bent. Mr. Russell's comment that got him showed the door at 94.1 involved a colorful response to protesters at President Bush's second inauguration.
To that end, OMW hears that WHBC will become one of the first affiliates of the new Westwood One syndicated talk show hosted by comedian/commentator/former Monday Night Football voice Dennis Miller.
Miller is slated to debut on 1480 in April - we presume April 2nd. His show doesn't start until March 26th.
He'll be Russell's lead-in, from what we're told, in the noon-to-3 PM time slot. The Dennis Miller radio show will be produced live in the 10 AM-1 PM Eastern time slot, if we remember right, so that means a two hour rolling delay on the WHBC side.
We don't know how this affects midday host Tom Jarrett, but we're told he's been mixing talk and music in the hours before 12 noon...mid-morning local talk, anyone?
There isn't much left to do to turn WHBC into a full-fledged talk station.
The morning drive show is already a news/information program with Fred Chenevey and Pam Cook. If Tom Jarrett segues to talk, the addition of Miller's program and local afternoon drive talk with Brady Russell puts the station in the format all day...and no matter what Brian Novak does at night, the time slot is frequently pre-empted by sporting events anyway.
(We're wondering if an old rumor we passed along happens at this point - that WHBC picks up Sporting News Radio for evenings/nights/weekends. We're just guessing at that one, as we've heard nothing recently on that.)
It'll be interesting to watch.
In one of the more important talk time slots, middays, the station is gambling on a comedian known for his high-minded obscure cultural references and with no radio talk experience. Dennis Miller's show will have to climb pretty high to reach even a decent fraction of the audience of one Rush Limbaugh, on both WHLO/640 Akron and WTAM/1100 Cleveland.
But that's been one of WHBC's problems in trying to move to the format - the lack of good syndicated talk programming not already claimed by other stations in or near the Canton market...