The voice of New York, come Jan. 7, may be no more.
That’s because WABC, one of the city’s premiere, preeminent stations, is poised to boot Michael Savage — to deplatform him, in broadcast-speak, said his attorney, Daniel Horowitz, in a telephone interview.
WABC isn’t saying such; in fact, a recent news release from the station indicates Savage will be moving into a new, fresher format designed to take advantage of emerging media, one that will see him do one hour of radio alongside one hour of podcast.
But the behind-the-scenes story is a bit different.
According to Horowitz, who said he’s seen “the emails back and forth” between his client, Savage, and the radio powers-who-be, “The Savage Nation” is actually poised to go dark on WABC on Jan. 7.
And not just on WABC: Horowitz said media powerhouses in Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., are all giving the boot to Savage, as well.
Why? What’s going on?
Well, it’s not ratings, Horowitz said. And he’s right; the numbers bear the truth of Savage’s years-long radio dominance.
Take a look: “Michael Savage Proves a Ratings Tour-de-Force on Bay Area’s KSFO,” Newsmax blared in a headline in June of 2016, in a story on Savage’s domination in that West Coast market.
Then there’s this: In late 2017, Talk Stream Live listed Savage, with 14.8 million listeners, as the second most-listened to top talk radio voice in the nation, behind only Rush Limbaugh’s 16.5 million listeners — but far ahead of third place Laura Ingraham’s 6.8 million.
Don’t forget this: In 2016, Savage made the National Radio Hall of Fame in the category of Spoken Word On-Air Personality, based on the votes of the listening American public.
So if not ratings — what then?
Westwood One’s Bart Tessler, the man Savage said was responsible for syndicating his show, replied to an email seeking an explanation by saying, “that’s a WABC item, not Westwood One.” The contact he gave, Lisa Dollinger, didn’t immediately respond.
Meanwhile, Radio Insight reported in September that Westwood One was “shaking up its weekday afternoon Conservative Talk block” and that “Ben Shapiro To Go National As Michael Savage Cuts Back To One Hour.” The release went on to note that Cumulus just “launched Ben Shapiro on six stations in April including a live clearance on 770 WABC New York and delayed clearances on WMAL Washington DC, WLS Chicago, WYAY Atlanta and KABC Los Angeles.”
OK. So out with the old, in with the new?
Perhaps. Perhaps that’s how the radio gods might put it. But given Savage’s ratings and time-tested popularity with the people, that excuse doesn’t meet the smell test.
More likely, it’s this: Political distaste for Savage’s fiercely independent streak.
“The only reason I can see,” Savage said in a telephone interview, “is because of politics. … It makes no sense. I have a loyal, large audience. Why not at least do reruns at night?”
Horowitz put it blunter.
“Michael’s voice, unlike [his conservative competitors] has always been very independent,” Horowitz said. “Savage is completely a wild card, right? And that’s what they’re trying to kill. It’s all about corporate control. Taking him off the air is not a business decision.”
Conspiracy theory? Think again. Think Alex Jones. Think Megyn Kelly. Just a couple years ago, booting these big money media draws would’ve been unthinkable. Fast forward a couple of politically incorrect blinks later and indeed, the unthinkable has occurred.
Michael Savage, in that same vein, could very well be the next nationally known victim of media censorship.
“Networks are actually losing millions of dollars in order to keep Michael’s voice off these stations,” Horowitz said.
Yes, indeed. “The Savage Nation” could indeed be the next casualty of corporate censorship. And what a sad, sorry shame that will be for a nation already suffering from the plight of having too-few-and-far-between original thinkers.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley.