For years, 106.9FM WKDN Family Radio served as the local soapbox for zealot Harold Camping, who memorably predicted that the world would end in May 2011. Disgraced, Camping has sold the station to 59-year-old Midwestern radio mogul Randy Michaels, who’s ditching Jesus but retaining the Far Right with WWIQ, his just-debuted station that has launched one year after the Apocalypse didn’t happen.
Former TV anchor (and Philly Post contributor) Larry Mendte and Philadelphia native and radio veteran Al Gardner will helm mornings from 6 to 9 a.m., while the balance of the airtime will be filled by syndicated conservative talkers Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. (Rush Limbaugh is rumored to be joining soon.) The lineup creates a 50,000-watt Tea Party-friendly news/talk hybrid designed to sink longtime AM favorites 1210 AM and KYW.
“AM has been dying since the ’70s,” Michaels says. “All those degraded signals. So staticky.”
Michaels is a tell-it-like-it-is, no-B.S. character who made major waves while CEO of Tribune Broadcasting, which he was forced out of in 2010 in a torrent of controversy over in-office sex talk and poker parties (recounted in a 4,000-word David Carr feature in the New York Times).
“He’s not perfect,” says a former employee. “But he is a genius.”
Michaels’s recent all-news radio efforts in New York and Chicago are struggling, so he’s hoping the big names on the Philadelphia roster will seal the deal, even though Hannity’s, Beck’s and Limbaugh’s shows didn’t do well enough here in the past. Of course, that was on “staticky” AM. Some observers have also questioned whether sinking money into radio is akin to spending $55 million on newspapers.
“No, it’s not,” insists Michaels. “I don’t need ink, paper and a fleet of trucks to get the news on doorsteps every day between 3 and 6 a.m. Our delivery method is radio waves. And there will be many, many years where getting people the news and talk they want, delivered to them in their cars—for free—will remain a great business plan.”
This piece originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Philadelphia magazine.