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'The U' adding new page to Springer's 'colorful history'

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Former Streeterville ringmaster Jerry Springer may have uprooted his syndicated talk show and relocated to Connecticut last summer, but he’s still on the move in Chicago: His local outlet will switch this fall from Fox-owned WPWR-Channel 50 to Weigel Broadcasting’s WCIU-Channel 26.


“Jerry Springer has a long, colorful history in Chicago,” Neal Sabin, executive vice president of Weigel and general manager of “The U,” said Monday. “We will come up with our own unique spin in adding his show to our morning schedule.”

Sabin won’t say exactly what he has in mind to promote Springer on Channel 26, but Weigel will have its own Web camera installed at NBC Universal’s facilities in Stamford, Conn., where Springer’s show is produced. “He’ll be coming back in town for sales calls and pie fights,” Sabin added.

The move will unite “The Jerry Springer Show” on Channel 26’s weekday morning lineup with its spinoff, “The Steve Wilkos Show,” which shares production and distribution teams with Springer. It could mean a big boost for both shows here, considering the strength of Channel 26’s morning and afternoon ratings. In November, Wilkos ranked No. 1 at 11 a.m. among men in the 18-49 and 25-54 age demographic, No. 2 among adults in the 18-49 and 25-54 demos, and No. 2 among women in the 25-54 demo. (By comparison, Channel 50’s noon airing of Springer ranked sixth or seventh in most demos.)

Both shows recently were renewed through 2012.

From 1992 until earlier this year, “The Jerry Springer Show” had been taped at NBC Tower in Chicago. After initially appearing on NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, it was picked up by Fox in 1998 for airing on WFLD-Channel 32 and later on Channel 50.

Although relatively tame by today’s standards of reality television, Springer’s show was a lightning rod for controversy at the height of its popularity in the late ‘90s. Civic and religious groups led protests against the show, and Springer himself was hauled before a Chicago City Council committee to respond to concerns about whether fights among guests were real or staged. “To my death I will tell you that the fighting you see on our show never, ever, ever glamorizes violence,” Springer told the committee. In 2002, TV Guide called it “the worst show in the history of television.” Springer wore the label like a badge of honor.

In shifting production of the Springer and Wilkos shows to Connecticut, NBC Universal took advantage of millions of dollars in tax credits and other incentives. Ruth L. Ratny’s reported that the move cost Illinois as many as 200 jobs along with “trickle down” revenue generated by hotels, restaurants, limos and other tourist activities involving guests.

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