One of the reasons why Cumulus Media is threatening to let Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity walk at the end of the year is because both shows are still losing advertisers.
Media Matters ran down the most recent boycott caused advertiser departures over the last few weeks:
After a CVS ad appeared during Limbaugh’s show, CVS advised that it won’t happen again, explaining: “The Rush Limbaugh show is not a program on which we typically advertise & a recent commercial was aired on this program in error.”
Upon learning its ads were running during Limbaugh’s show, Disney On Ice promptly removed them, stating: “The advertisements you are referring to have been pulled and should no longer be airing during Rush Limbaugh’s show.”
Citing Limbaugh’s indecent content, fast food chain Bojangles also removed ads. The apologetic chain noted that it didn’t purchase the ads directly but as part of a package, adding: “A number of our loyal guests have told us they were offended by some of the content on the program in question. We have looked into that content, and as a result we have taken the steps necessary to ensure our ads do not run on this program indefinitely.”
AAMCO went so far as to make an exception to its policy of leaving advertising decisions in the hands of locally owned franchisees in order to remove ads from Limbaugh’s show.
Advertisers have been taking action similar to the aforementioned examples for more than a year, which accounts for the scope and scale of the financial damage.
However, many inside the broadcasting business think this threat is nothing more than a public negotiating tactic, “A source in the agent community tells TVNewser that ‘this is a public negotiating tactic, it’s about sending a message.’In other words, don’t be surprised if Limbaugh, Hannity or both men remain on Cumulus. That said, Cumulus has reached out to other hosts, and has indicated that it would replace the two programs with others hosted by people like Mike Huckabee, Mark Levin and Michael Savage. At the very least it wants to give the appearance that it is serious about its plans.”
The message that Cumulus is trying to send is that the boycott has made shows like Limbaugh’s and Hannity’s less lucrative. Limbaugh and Hannity aren’t generating the ad sales that they used to, so their price has to come down. This may be a negotiating tactic, but the radio business is moving away from conservative talk radio. Advertisers would rather spend money on less controversial sports talk shows. The odds of a sports host saying something that could jeopardize an advertiser’s brand are exponentially smaller than the risk that comes with spending precious ad dollars on a time bomb like Limbaugh.
Advertisers have decided that advertising on Limbaugh and Hannity’s shows isn’t worth the risk, and now Cumulus is suggesting that Rush Limbaugh’s next contract should reflect the risk and revenue decline.
That’s the very definition of the free market at work.
Limbaugh and his defenders can moan and groan about the boycott, but the advertiser boycott shows that the free market principles that Rush claims to champion really do work. Consumers have the right to tell advertisers that they won’t buy their products if they advertise on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show. So many advertisers have listened to these consumers,and not advertised on Rush, that Limbaugh’s show isn’t as valuable as it once was.
Frankly, Cumulus would be insane to keep paying Limbaugh at the same level of his last deal. This might all be a public negotiating tactic, but if Limbaugh refuses to acknowledge that he is the reason why Cumulus has lost money, it might be difficult to get a new deal done.
The Rush Limbaugh boycott may be helping to usher in the demise of conservative talk radio.
When Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut, he unintentionally set of a revolution that may end up rendering him obsolete.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a 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