The pending switch of "The Rush Limbaugh Show" from WCBM-AM (680) to local talk leader WBAL-AM (1090) was still a matter of hearsay yesterday to officials at the station losing the provocative talk-show host next year.
"It would be premature for us to comment, for we have not been officially notified, and I think it is highly unusual for all these reports to be circulating," said WCBM program director Sean Casey.
He added, however, "I know that WBAL has been trying to steal him for a couple years."
In the winter and spring radio ratings this year, the popularity of Mr. Limbaugh's show had helped push WCBM into the top 10 ranked stations, in seventh and eighth place, respectively.
WBAL said Friday that Mr. Limbaugh's popular talk show will debut on the 50,000-watt outlet Jan. 3, and will be heard from 1 to 4 p.m. weekdays.
The move had been rumored for weeks, but the deal was not signed until Friday, officials said. "The Ron Smith Show," currently airing in the afternoon, will be moved to 8 to 11 p.m., and "The Dan Rodricks Show," currently heard in that period weekday evenings (when Orioles games or other sports events do not air), will be cut.
The station has told Mr. Rodricks it would like to keep his Saturday show, which is heard from 6 to 10 a.m.
Mr. Rodricks said yesterday that he is interested in continuing the Saturday program, but that he was sorry to learn of the demise of his nighttime broadcast.
"I am very disappointed in this decision. I feel that over the last four years I worked very hard to develop a following at night. . . . We did some things you don't hear on talk radio much these days. We had some fun," said the host, who is also a columnist for The Sun.
Mr. Rodricks declined to comment directly on Mr. Limbaugh, whose sharp-tongued conservatism is heard on 626 stations nationally.
But he said, "I've never felt the need to be an ideologue on the radio and to preach to people."
Jeff Beauchamp, vice president and general manager of WBAL, said, "I think we're best served by the lineup we've chosen, but I will tell you it had nothing to do with 'The Dan Rodricks Show.' Dan Rodricks is terrific.
"We brought Limbaugh on as a business decision," he added.
Regarding the formal notice to WCBM of a station switch, a spokesman for the syndicate that distributes "The Rush Limbaugh Show" had no comment yesterday.
"We just don't tell anybody what we do and how we do it," said Lee Vanden-Handel, director of affiliate relations for EFM Media Inc., adding, "We're always happy to talk about how well Rush and Dr. Edell do."
Mr. Beauchamp said Mr. Limbaugh's arrival in January will also bring "The Dr. Dean Edell Show" from the same syndicate. The hourlong program of general health information and commentary will be heard from 11 p.m. to midnight weeknights.
To accommodate the medical show, WBAL plans to cut "The Jim Bohannon Show" by an hour, beginning it at midnight.
And at 2 a.m., it plans to air taped highlights from "The Rush Limbaugh Show."
That means late-night fans could get a daily double dose of Mr. Limbaugh beginning at 2:35 a.m. His syndicated television show is seen at that hour on WBAL-TV (Channel 11).