Rush Limbaugh, the greatest ‘boar’ on talk radio, has been haranguing audiences for well over a quarter century parlaying vituperation into millions of dollars. In so doing he has not only given ‘honor’ to ignorance but has transformed himself into the mouthpiece of a generation. He has become the very squeal of the swine.
“Limbaugh’s ongoing major market woes can be traced to his 2012 on-air meltdown over Sandra Fluke, where he castigated and insulted the graduate student for three days on his program, calling her a “slut” and suggesting she post videos of herself having sex on the Internet. (Fluke’s sin in the eyes of Limbaugh was testifying before Congress in favor of contraception mandates for health care insurance.)
The astonishing Limbaugh monologues sparked an unprecedented advertiser exodus, which means selling his show has become a major lift for the affiliate stations that pay a hefty fee for the right to carry his program. The Wall Street Journal has reported on the millions of dollars in advertising revenue that Limbaugh’s host stations lose because of the talker’s stigma on Madison Avenue.” (1)
He’s lost KLN in Nebraska (2), his spot on Indianapolis’ flagship talk radio station, WLS in Chicago and his premier place in the Boston radio markets. The great boar is losing his squeal not simply because of disgraceful on-air commentary, but because the Boomers are getting older and, it appears, increasingly irrelevant.Jason Easley, in an essay appearing in “Politicususa” has given other reasons why the full-throated squeal is being reduced to a mere whimper: The advertiser boycott touched off by Limbaugh’s unseemly assault on Sandra Fluke brought public attention to the sewer that conservative talk radio has become.
“[B]ut as Republican Daryl Parks wrote when rumors of Limbaugh getting moved to a smaller station in Chicago surfaced, radio station executives don’t want Limbaugh, but literally can’t give him away, “The Chicago rumors come as no surprise to me, as three different Cumulus executives have told me on different occasions they wish they could get rid of Limbaugh’s show and they can’t sell it.” ‘(3)
“Parks also explained why these stations are stuck with Limbaugh, “Premiere Networks and its owner Clear Channel Media + Entertainment iHeart Media has crammed down Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck on its talk stations, not allowing local stations to make needed changes to their programming, changes that could provide some hope of staying relevant. It was a great business model…in the 20th century! In business speak it’s called “vertical integration.” The company produces the product and then uses its distribution arm, its radio stations, to broadcast the shows. Guaranteed clearance, plus in Limbaugh’s case and some of Hannity’s stations, the local stations have to pay a “rights fee” in addition to the barter commercial inventory they broadcast from the network. There was no negotiation whether to broadcast the show or what fee was to be paid. Here’s the number you pay was the only conversation during the budget process. This, as you can imagine, affected cash flow and coupled with the increasing demands for talk stations to generate more profit, it forced local stations to lay-off other talk hosts, producers and gut news departments. Talented people left the radio business and the death spiral for talk radio began. It began years ago.”
“The radio stations don’t get a choice. They are being forced to carry Limbaugh while paying for the privilege of giving three hours of airtime to a host whose audience is even older than those who watch Fox News.” (3)
Rush Limbaugh and Conservative talk radio have become the bane of the industry in nearly all the major markets. The Sandra Fluke scandal, of course, sparked a national outcry with groups like “Flush Rush” working to organize an effective national boycott of his sponsors.But this is only half the story. There is another, more significant, reason that Conservative Talk has fallen beneath Sports and Limbaugh now has a smaller audience in New York and Los Angeles than Spanish radio stations (3). His audience is getting older and, increasingly, irrelevant.
“Younger people across the political spectrum don’t listen to talk radio. Stations that carry Limbaugh are losing both listeners and money.” (3)
When Indianapolis’ flagship station WIBC announced it was dropping Limbaugh, Charlie Morgan, executive of Emmis Communications acknowledged the damage resulting from the Fluke Scandal and the departure of national advertisers. But he also said the decision was about “the long-term direction” of the station. (4) With similar demographics, conservative talk-radio is selling at roughly half the income of conventional music formats. (4).As Limbaugh’s empire unravels the remaining stations in his broadcast network will be looking to dump him as soon as their contracts expire with few eager step in (1). Meanwhile he is being moved from flagship stations, as in the case of his Boston affiliate, to a station that has .06 percentage of the market share; the cellar-dwelling outpost of WKOX.
These are welcome events, demonstrating not only the power of grass-roots organization and protest, but the loss of audience and impending demise of the most egregious mouthpiece of the generation of swine. Both radio and the republic will be the better for it.
(1). See Boehlert, Eric. “Rush Limbaugh’s downward spiral continues: Another demotion, another step toward irrelevancy” http://www.salon.com/2015/06/18/rush_limbaughs_downward_spiral_continues_another_demotion_another_step_to_irrelevancy_partner/