The incoming owners of 1510 WMEX-AM said they will pass on Rush Limbaugh and go instead with a new programming lineup meant to bring more humor and local coverage to conservative talk radio in Boston.
It’s a surprise move by a station that radio industry analysts pegged as the presumptive landing spot for Limbaugh’s nationally syndicated show after his distributor, Premiere Networks, and 680 WRKO-AM said last week that it had failed to reach an extension. The conservative icon has been on Boston airwaves since 1991.
“He’s been offered to us four times, and we’ve said no,” said Mary Catherine Remmer, co-owner of Daly XXL Communications, which has been operating WMEX under a lease management agreement since March and plans to close on a purchase from Blackstrap Broadcasting later this summer. She declined to disclose financial terms.
A partnership between Limbaugh and WMEX seemed logical. The station’s conservative bent is a natural fit, and its 50,000-watt signal is as powerful as WRKO’s. Adding a big name like Limbaugh would have been one way for new management to make a splash and possibly boost ratings.
WMEX finished in a tie for 38th place in the critical men 25-54 demographic during the winter ratings period, according to Nielsen Audio.
The decision by Daly XXL, a fledgling media company based in Wilmington, N.C., leaves Limbaugh with few options in the Boston market.
“There really aren’t any good ones now,” said Scott Fybush, editor of Northeast Radio Watch, an industry newsletter. “It’s likely he’ll end up on some smaller signal, like WCAP in Lowell or WATD on the South Shore. That’s probably going to be his best option.”
Executives at WCAP and WATD did not respond to requests for comment. In an e-mail to the Globe, a spokeswoman for Premiere Networks echoed an earlier statement: “Rush Limbaugh is heard in every measured radio market in America, and that will continue to be the case in Boston,” said Rachel Nelson, the spokeswoman.
Meanwhile the new WMEX lineup debuts June 2. The morning drive slot, from 6-10 a.m., will be anchored by Joe Ligotti, the YouTube sensation better known as “The Guy From Boston.” Ligotti built an online following by posting video rants on topics such as illegal immigration and gay marriage — often with an American flag in the background and a cigar in his mouth, and always in a heavy Boston accent.
Bill Keeler, currently a morning show host in Utica, N.Y., will take the noon to 3 p.m. shift that otherwise might have been Limbaugh’s. Michele McPhee, a former Boston Herald columnist, will anchor the afternoon drive from 3-6 p.m.
Remmer, a retired nurse, formed Daly XXL in February with her husband, Henry, and brother, Bryan Berner.
Remmer said Daly XXL will give hosts more freedom to set their own agendas than many other stations, hoping the result will be fun, approachable programming.
“Being conservative does not mean you have to be old and stodgy,” she said.
Callum Borchers can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.