Fox business TV to simulcast Don Imus radio show

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Fox business news channel of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has agreed to simulcast the radio show of Don Imus, the ratings-grabber who stirred a national controversy on race two years ago.

Radio personality Don Imus talks on air during his return to radio in New York, December 3, 2007. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Fox Business Network (FBN) said on Thursday it had signed a multiyear deal to show the Imus program on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. starting on October 5.

“The program will incorporate additional business news into its format, which now offers a mix of current affairs, politics, entertainment and sports,” Fox said in a statement.

The Imus show will continue to be syndicated on the radio by Citadel Broadcasting Corp.

Fox Business Network launched in October 2007 to compete with CNBC, a unit of NBC Universal which is owned by General Electric and Vivendi.

Since its launch, Fox Business Network’s morning audience has regularly been dwarfed by CNBC, and television analysts have said it needs a jolt. Imus may provide that, but his show also raises questions about whether the network will continue to concentrate on business news or is ready to move in other directions to attract viewers.

Imus’ show of off-color humor and politics will air in the critical hours before markets open in New York.

The “Money for Breakfast” show from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. will be canceled and the “Opening Bell” show will continue in the 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. slot.

Imus, among the highest-rated radio hosts in the United States, caused a scandal in 2007 when he referred to a mostly black women’s basketball team as “nappy headed hos.” The phrase combines a term for short, curly hair with slang for whore and was widely criticized as racially charged and offensive.

Imus apologized, but the comment led MSNBC cable television to cancel the simulcast of his radio show, which was also aired by CBS Radio. CBS then fired Imus when the controversy persisted.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Tim Dobbyn