Procter & Gamble and other major advertisers pulled their spots. The Rev. Jesse Jackson and other leaders protested. But NBC News executives insist it was reaction from their own employees that promoted them to permanently cancel the simulcast of the Imus In the Morning radio program.
“Within this organization, this had touched a nerve. The comment that came through, time and time again was, 'When is enough going to be enough?’ This was the only action we could take,” NBC News president Steve Capus said on MSNBC Wednesday night, shortly after NBC announced that it had dropped “shock jock” Don Imus’s program.
Imus had referred to members of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos” during his early morning program on April 4.
After downplaying initial protests, Imus spent the early part of last week apologizing on his show and other outlets, including NBC’s Today show and on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio program.
But it wasn’t enough to keep Imus on the air after nearly 40 years in broadcasting.
Passionate, moving comments made during a live telecast press conference last Tuesday by the young women on the Rutgers basketball team were also a factor in NBC’s decision to can the program, Capus said.
Imus met with the Rutgers team Thursday night to apologize to the coach and players in person.
Less than 24 hours later, CBS Radio, which distributes Imus In the Morning nationwide (via Westwood One), pulled the plug on Imus’s broadcast.
The cancellation of Imus In the Morning, which MSNBC has simulcast since 1996, leaves the network without a staple show.
Imus In the Morning averaged 358,000 viewers Monday through Friday during the first quarter, an increase of 39% from the first quarter of 2006. The program trailed CNN’sAmerican Morning in the first quarter by 14,000 viewers. Fox News Channel dominates the morning ratings, averaging 695,000 viewers during the first quarter with Fox & Friends.
NBC News said it plans to replace Imus with regular news programming while it considers a permanent replacement. NBC News White House correspondent David Gregory — a frequent guest on Imus’s show — filled several hours of Imus’s regular time slot last Thursday and Friday.
MSNBC won’t develop a traditional morning show to replace Imus In the Morning, one network executive said. Sister network NBC already broadcasts the most highly rated morning program, its Today show.
Gregory isn’t expected to return to MSNBC early Monday morning, the company executive said. Replacement anchors haven’t yet been set.
While NBC News chief Capus maintained that it was pressure from employees that compelled the company to dump Imus, he didn’t kill the simulcast until several advertisers had pulled out of the show, including Procter & Gamble, American Express, General Motors, GlaxoSmithKline and longtime Imus in The Morning advertiser Bigelow Tea.
CBS Radio’s WFAN-AM station in New York ran Imus in The Morning from 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. (ET), Monday through Friday. MSNBC simulcast the program from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. before switching to its MSNBC Live daytime coverage at 9 a.m.
WFAN’s afternoon drive-time show, Mike and the Mad Dog, is simulcast on the YES Network regional sports channel from 1 to 6:30 p.m. weekdays. On Friday, hosts Mike Francesa and Chris Russo said at WFAN’s request they’d cover the 6 to 10 a.m. slot in Imus’s place while also hosting a 2-6:30 p.m. show on the sports-talk station for a couple of weeks.
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