By Adam R Jacobson
RBR + TVBR
TAMPA, FLA. — Some two months after Beasley Media Group dropped the syndicated Bubba the Love Sponge Show from its “No Rules Radio” WBRN-FM 98.7 and subsequently flipped the station to Christmas music ahead of a wholesale change to Adult Contemporary programming, Bubba The Love Sponge Clem is set for a comeback on the Tampa Bay airwaves.
Starting Monday, Feb. 13, Mr. Clem will make Genesis Communications‘ 50kw day/1kw night Class B WWBA-AM 820, licensed to the Pinellas County city of Largo, his new flagship station.
The program will take the 6 a.m.-10 a.m. slot on WWBA, which enjoys a daytime signal that covers the entire West Coast of Florida, from Pensacola to Panama City Beach, Tallahassee, Sarasota-Bradenton, and much of the Fort Myers-Naples market, where his program will continue to be heard on Beasley’s Rock WRXK-FM 96.1 “K-Rock.”
WWBA can also be heard as far inland as Ocala and the Lakeland-Winter Haven area — a geographical zone that Bubba noted he could not reach on WBRN during the first weeks of his tenure at the station.
Genesis played up the positive aspects of Clem’s “everyman approach” to various radio topics including celebrity interviews, sports, politics, and news of the day humor. The Bubba the Love Sponge Foundation, primarily focused on providing aide to the families of first responders and law enforcement that are killed in the line of duty, has approached $1 million in donations.
For anyone who has followed Bubba’s career, to call it controversial may be an understatement.
In October 2015, Nielsen went after Mr. Clem directly by filing a $1 million law suit in a Florida civil court over a ratings tampering case that continues to wind its weigh through the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
Read more about Bubba The Love Sponge here:
Clem’s notoriety in Tampa Bay goes back more than 15 years, when an employee of iHeart predecessor Clear Channel.
On January 27, 2004, the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability of a whopping $755,000 against four Clear Channel stations, including parent station WXTB-FM 97.9 in Tampa, for Bubba The Love Sponge segments that included material “designed to pander to, titillate and shock listeners.” One segment featured the cartoon characters Alvin and the Chipmunks, George Jetson, and Scooby-Doo discussing sexual activities.
Clear Channel fired Clem on Feb. 23, 2004; he had the No. 1 morning show among adults aged 18-54, Arbitron data showed. The dismissal was the final straw for the radio company, as Bubba the Love Sponge survived a now-infamous Feb. 2001 on-air incident at WXTB “98 Rock” that involved the slaughter and roasting of a wild Florida boar that had been captured by a professional hunter.
He went to Sirius Satellite Radio, joining other “shock jocks” including Howard Stern and Opie & Anthony at the subscription service. However, thanks to a huge fan base in Tampa, Cox Media Group took a chance in January 2008 by bringing back the Bubba the Love Sponge program to the market — at WHPT-FM 102.5 in Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla., a Class C 100kw blowtorch with a signal reaching most of Tampa-St. Petersburg, the northern half of the Ft. Myers-Naples market, and nearly all of the Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla., market.
Cox renewed his contract in January 2012; He was let go by Cox Media Group in August 2014, with Tampa VP/Market Manager stating, “We appreciate everything the Bubba the Love Sponge Show has done for us over the past six years. We now are taking the station in a different direction.”
Now, Bubba is back on a signal that has a greater reach than any of his three previous Tampa facilities.
“We are extremely excited to enter into a partnership with the Bubba the Love Sponge Show,” said WWBA Program Manager Tom Paleveda. “The show has an incredibly engaged audience across West Central Florida, and we felt we could serve that audience exceptionally well with our distribution platform. We have assurances that Bubba will do his best to be a good boy while providing his unique brand of content.”
WWBA will continue to air News/Talk programming in all other dayparts and keeps its “820 News” moniker.
RBR + TVBR