It's been quite a 2010 for conservative media icon Glenn Beck - spurring on the tea-party movement, drawing a throng to his August rally at the Lincoln Memorial and becoming a finalist for Time's Person of the Year.
But come 2011, Beck will be off the radio in Philadelphia - at least as it stands now.
Beck and his fellow right-wing gabber Sean Hannity were dumped yesterday by the city's top-ranked talk-radio outlet, WPHT, The Big Talker (1210-AM), in a shakeup aimed at keepin' it local.
While Hannity and Beck - nationally the No. 2 and No. 3 most-listened-to talk hosts behind Rush Limbaugh - are scrambling to find a new home in America's fourth-biggest media market, the shuffle means a more prominent role for locally based Michael Smerconish.
The station announced that Smerconish would return to the afternoon drive-time slot, with a local hour at 3 p.m. and then his nationally syndicated show from 4 to 7 p.m. Another longtime local host, Dom Giordano, takes over for Beck from 9 a.m. to 12, while a new hire - Kansas City conservative yakker Chris Stigall - will do the morning-drive slot. The changes are slated to take effect in mid-January.
Marc Rayfield, senior vice president and market manager for CBS Radio in Philadelphia, said the shakeup began with renegotiating Smerconish's contract, which expires at year's end, and seeking to reduce the demands on his schedule. Smerconish has been doing two radio shows a day - one locally oriented and one for national syndication - writing columns for the Daily News and Inquirer, filling in on MSNBC and other projects.
What's more, Rayfield said that WPHT wants to become "more of a locally based station" and that its biggest draws have been Smerconish and its broadcasts of the Phillies. The move means that for now the Big Talker will have just one well-known national host in its lineup - Limbaugh, long a fixture in the noon-to-3 p.m. slot.
Media-watchers speculated that Beck - whose radio show was based at WPHT when he rose to national prominence in the early 2000s - and Hannity might quickly move to a new home on the Philadelphia dial.
One option could be the other, lower-rated conservative talk station, WNPT (990-AM). In addition, an existing Philadelphia station could change formats to go after Beck and Hannity and create a instant challenger to WPHT.
Hannity and Beck are syndicated by Premier Radio Networks, a subsidiary of national radio giant Clear Channel Communications, which owns several music stations in Philadelphia.