If there are any lingering doubts in the radio world that Program Director Kevin Metheny was brought on board to shake up and expand the somewhat older-skewing audience base at news-talk WGN-AM (720), the Chicago debut on Sunday of Frenchman Simon Badinter and his "Simon Rendezvous" show should quickly dispel them.
Badinter may be a stranger to Chicago and WGN listeners, but he is very much a known quantity -- and something of an oddity -- in Cleveland. Yes that would be Cleveland, Ohio, where rivers used to catch on fire and where Metheny was based before he abruptly turned up at WGN in December to replace Bob Shomper, who abruptly jumped to news/talk WLS-AM (890) as program director.
For the past two years Badinter, who was born and raised in Paris, France, has been doing his "Rendezvous" schtick at WTAM-AM (1100), and Badinter has had a fun time playing his worldly sophistication off against the somewhat more provincial mindset of his Cleveland listeners (no offense intended Clevelanders!) But Badinter would tell you that his radio show's real appeal has less to do with his aristocratic Frenchness than it does with the wide-ranging topics he chooses to discuss every week and the heated debates he apparently sparks with lots of listeners. Recently, for instance, he has addressed gay marriage and the cojoined themes of drugs and rock 'n roll. "My show is not really about what Simon says, it's about the passion my listeners have for the topics we debate," Badinter told us.
For his part, Metheny isn't predicting how Badinter will fare with many current WGN listeners who aren't necessarily used to interacting with an aggressively-opionated radio talent like Badinter, but Metheny is sure hoping he'll draw fresh, younger ears to the station. The curious -- young or old -- can tune in to Badinter's first three-hour WGN show at 6 p.m. on Sunday.