Walton and Johnson are no longer broadcasting on The Eagle 98.1 in Baton Rouge and Bayou radio 95.7 in New Orleans — opting instead for talk radio stations in a move that triggered a lawsuit by The Eagle's owners over an alleged contract violation.
The radio duo announced on their Facebook page that beginning Jan. 2 they could be found in Baton Rouge on WJBO 1150, an AM station, from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays. Michael Hudson, market president for iHeartMedia-owned WJBO, said the company also converted 97.7 to WJBO FM, giving Walton and Johnson a presence on the FM dial in Baton Rouge. They will broadcast from 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the FM station.
The radio hosts also announced they would be moving to New Talk 99.5 WRNO in New Orleans, also in the morning hours. The show had been heard on Bayou radio, 95.7 FM, WKBU.
Guaranty Broadcasting Co., owner of the The Eagle, filed a lawsuit Dec. 13 as negotiations to extend a contract beyond Dec. 31, 2016, deteriorated.
Guaranty's filing said it had requested a reduction of the base fee paid to Walton and Johnson in exchange for giving them a longer-term contract. Their contract had been renewed every two years.
Guaranty's lawsuit says Walton and Johnson would not agree to the changes during negotiations into October and November, then indicated during discussions in December that Walton and Johnson programming no longer would be provided to Guaranty after Dec. 31.
The contract, which originated in 2006, calls for automatic two-year extensions unless either party provides at least 90 days written notice of plans to terminate or not renew the agreement. Guaranty said neither side submitted 90 days written notice, which caused the automatic renewal of the contract to kick in as of Oct. 2 for the period of Jan. 1, 2017, until Dec. 31, 2018.
Guaranty said it would suffer considerable damages by no longer being allowed to air the Walton and Johnson Show. The broadcaster is seeking a judgment that the contract automatically renewed and that Walton and Johnson are obligated to provide programming. As an alternative, Guaranty wants an unspecified amount of money to be determined in a trial.
In a statement on the station's Facebook page, Guaranty President Flynn Foster said "our old Houston based morning show left us," and promised a "new live and local morning show" will come on the air on Jan. 9.
John Walton and Steve Johnson started their radio show in 1983 in New Orleans, according to their website. The website says the show has been on The Eagle since Jan. 1, 1999, when the radio station was announced as a "premiere key affiliate."
WJBO is home to conservative talk radio, broadcasting Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, The Sean Hannity Show and Michael Berry.
Hudson said Walton and Johnson's contract with Guaranty was up for renewal, and iHeartMedia thought they would make a smart addition to its already conservative lineup.
"Walton and Johnson are all talk, no music. They're conservative, and they're funny as hell," said Hudson, adding, "It's a great way to start 2017. They were No. 1 in Baton Rouge for over 15 years and a strong No. 1, No. 2 in New Orleans. We're very excited."