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Recently in Simon Badinter Category

French American talk show host Simon Badinter offered Chicago radio listeners a touch of the exotic. But they never fully embraced what he was offering for the nearly two years he hosted "Simon Rendezvous" on WGN-AM (720).

So Badinter has amicably parted ways with WGN and moved his show to WTKK-FM in Boston. He has only done a couple of Sunday shows there and has yet to sign any long-term contract with the station.

While low ratings is the official reason for Badinter's show being cancelled on WGN-AM, there were other contributing factors.

For a station that prides itself on having a Chicago focus, Badineter brought an unabashedly worldly viewpoint to his Sunday evening "Simon Rendezvous." Though his day job as an advertising executive with the Paris-based Publicis Groupe kept him in Chicago often, he was also a jet-setter, and proudly so. WGN management did not think his show was as Chicago-centric as it needed to be to appeal to WGN listeners.

Then there was the matter of Badinter's style on air. "I was probably too direct, too abrasive, too confrontational, when the station aims for a tone that is more friendly and agreeable," said Badinter, who was born and raised in France, but became an American citizen on Jan. 7.

"I think the people of Chicago don't want to be disturbed, but I gave it my best shot and the topics I talked about were the right ones, insisted Badinter, who nonetheless said -- more than once -- that he was grateful for the opportunity to work at WGN.

In addition, Badinter was stuck in a difficult time slot at WGN where he could get little traction because his show was often preempted by Chicago Blackhawks games.

Badinter's replacement on Sunday evenings won't be decided until the new WGN-AM program director Bill White arrives in mid-February. But sources at the station said it most likely will be a talent that knows Chicago. WGN-AM wants to use weekends to test and develop hosts that could eventually move to more high-profile time slots.

SimonBadinter_2.jpgIf 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.



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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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