A Sunday night shocker is making the rounds as Cumulus Media has let it be known that they are planning on dumping Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity at the end of the year.
In a major shakeup for the radio industry, Cumulus Media, the second-biggest broadcaster in the country, is planning to drop both Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity from its stations at the end of the year, an industry source told POLITICO on Sunday.
Cumulus has decided that it will not renew its contracts with either host, the source said, a move that would remove the two most highly rated conservative talk personalities from more than 40 Cumulus channels in major markets.
The decision comes after negotiations between Cumulus and Premiere Networks, the division of Clear Channel that distributes Limbaugh and Hannity’s shows, broke down due to disagreements over the cost of the distribution rights, the source said. Cumulus is known to drive a hard bargain on costs, and Clear Channel is known to seek top dollar for big names.
As industry insiders caution, Cumulus and Clear Channel have come to the brink before during contract negotiations only to resume talks. But the source told POLITICO that Clear Channel was unlikely to reduce the cost for distribution rights to a level that would satisfy Cumulus.
The main reason why Cumulus would even think of dumping Limbaugh and Hannity is that the boycott has made their shows much less profitable. Forty eight of the top 50 advertisers on Cumulus asked that their ads not be played on Limbaugh and Hannity’s shows. Limbaugh and Cumulus have had a running feud over who is to blame for the flood of advertisers that have abandoned the top rated right wing talker. Limbaugh and Hannity denied that they had lost any advertisers, but Limbaugh’s Sandra Fluke comments cost Cumulus millions after a successful and ongoing boycott caused his advertisers to flee.
In reality, this news is all about the success of the Limbaugh advertiser boycott. Without the public pressure, bad publicity, and shame that the boycott brought on to his advertisers, Rush Limbaugh and Cumulus would probably still have a happy marriage.
What’s interesting about this is that Cumulus has also decided to drop Sean Hannity. The Fox News primetime host wasn’t dealing with a radio show advertiser boycott, but Limbaugh’s Sandra Fluke comments were so damaging to the industry that Rush has made controversial right wing radio toxic to mainstream corporate advertisers.
This story could be a negotiating tactic on the part of Cumulus, but they are going to need Limbaugh’s price to come down substantially in order to recover the money that the boycott is still costing them. It is unlikely that Limbaugh will lower his price, so it will probably be goodbye, Cumulus, hello, Clear Channel at the end of the year.
The boycotters did it. They got Limbaugh off of Cumulus, but their work is not done. Limbaugh will land somewhere else, and continue to spread his ugly, racist, and misogynistic speech on a daily basis.
However, the message of the boycott is clear. There are consequences for the words that Rush Limbaugh chose to use when he talked about Sandra Fluke. There are consequences for advertisers who support hate speech talk radio. Most importantly, if they speak loudly enough, and fight hard enough, eventually honorable people will prevail.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association