Report: Rush Limbaugh may leave Cumulus Due to CEO Blaming Fluke Comments for Ad Loss

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Are we on the verge of a major media story that could shake up talk radio? Or will this report be one that sparks a new round of (sigh) left and right skirmishing? Or will it turn out to be merely a contract negotiating ploy? According to The Politico, conservative talk show host king (and in many ways the de facto strategist of the Republican Party, if you look at how the party ultimately follows his wishes and how partisans pick up many of his riffs) is considering leaving Cumulus Media because Limbaugh is irked that the company’s CEO has blamed a loss in ad revenues on him.

SNL even did this sketch on the theme last March.

The Rush Limbaugh Program is considering ending its affiliation agreement with Cumulus Media at the end of this year, a move that would bring about one of the biggest shakeups in talk radio history, a source close to the show tells POLITICO.

Should the move take place, 40 Cumulus-owned radio stations would lose the rights to the most popular talk radio program in the country. In addition, the show might be picked up by competing regional radio stations in Washington, New York, Chicago, Dallas and other major markets.

According to the source, Limbaugh is considering the move because Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey has blamed the company’s advertising losses on Limbaugh’s controversial remarks about Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student. In Feb. 2012, Limbaugh referred to Fluke as “a slut” because she had called on congress to mandate insurance coverage of birth control. The subsequent controversy over those remarks resulted in a significant advertising boycott.

So since his contract is up this could be perceived as a negotiating ploy as well as an attempt to silence the CEO from talking about the negative impact of Limbaugh’s over-the-top comments (some say almost slanderous) about Fluke.

But it could be serious: Rush could always get stations to carry his show.

In case you forgot, GO HERE and read this column on the controversy and context of it. More from The Politico piece:

The true extent of Limbaugh’s effect on Cumulus’s advertising revenue is not known. In an August 2012 earnings call, Dickey said Cumulus’s top three stations had lost $5.5 million, in part because of the boycott. In a March 2013 earnings call, Dickey said the company’s talk radio side had “been challenged… due to some of the issues that happened a year ago.” Nevertheless, Limbaugh remains the most highly rated talk radio host in the country.

Cumulus Media, which has a contract with Limbaugh through 2013, declined to comment for this report….

Will Bunch writes:

Indeed, Limbaugh’s fall here is so epic that he may be taking down the entire industry; many advertisers have been adverse now to running their spots on any kind of talk show (which is unfortunate, and is unfair to decent conservatives who — unlike Limbaugh — wouldn’t dream of calling someone a “slut” because they disagreed with her). The irony is that Limbaugh could avoided a lot of this with a sincere apology, but just like in most Greek tragedies, hubris is always the greatest of the tragic flaws.

Also, the fact that stations even stick with Limbaugh at this point reminds me a lot of those GOP and pseudo-Democrats sticking with the NRA on background checks, and now paying the price in diminished popularlity. I guess some folks never learn…until it’s too late.


Some thoughts from yours truly:

1. I really think the days of Baby Boomers walking around with 1960s-based hubris are slowly coming to a welcome end. Limbaugh and many of these polarizing talk show hosts (right and even left variety) are Baby Boomers, or close to it. Many young people sadly shake their heads at name calling, demonizing, rage-filled radio and cable partisans. We’re likely to be headed to a new kind of political talk radio — passionate, yes, but framed in a way that the other side feels is hate radio, less likely. Don’t say “more cerebral” or you’ll doom a talk show host’s career. In 2013, at least.

2. Expect partisans to react to this report, if it has “legs.” Cumulus will be under pressure to keep Limbaugh and the CEO will be under pressure to never again blame Limbaugh for their loses. Leftists will gloat over Limbaugh’s problems and declare that the boycott of Limbaugh was a success and to keep it up.

3. None of this will diminish Limbaugh’s hold on many Republicans. You can tell when someone is a Limbaugh fan because they will almost reguritate his riffs, and deny facts are facts because Rush didn’t say them or Rush denied them. While many Republicans idolize him, others consider his impact on American politics and the demonizing way in which parties talk about each other has been toxic and undermined the once-cherished concept of seeking consensus, versus winning through political power only. The popularity of Limbaugh’s show spawned a host of Limbaugh wannabes (some better than others) and also transformed politics in the late 20th and early 21st century into entertainment, much as professional wrestling was the big entertainment ticket in early television.

But the bottom line will be this: if Limbaugh leaves Cumulus, he and his fans will say he left but many media types will conclude that, yes, he did pay a price for his behavior in his comments about Fluke and no matter how much bluster there is about how there was no real impact, yes, were some consequences. Don’t expect to hear that on Fox News or see that IN BIG HEADLINES on the Drudge Report.

It’s unlikely if Rush moves he’ll be bigger than ever on new stations; most likely, he’d be in a holding pattern or feel he has to be more outrageous to gain more audience share. Which he could then gain — no matter what it does to already sagging attempts to “rebrand” the Republican Party.

UPDATE: Gawker:

So, would the top-rated radio host in the country actually leave the stations that broadcast him in his largest markets? Maybe. Less Rush would certainly be a good thing, though that seems very unlikely to happen.

The New York Daily News:

Rush Limbaugh insists it’s not his fault that ad revenue has dropped at his flagship WABC radio station — and if his boss keeps saying it is, Rush just may pack up his megadittoes and leave.

In New York, that would very likely take him to WOR, which would create the biggest shakeup in city talk radio since WOR scooped up Bob Grant after WABC fired him in 1995.

Limbaugh’s contract with WABC expires at the end of the year.

Lew Dickey, the CEO of WABC parent company Cumulus, has said Limbaugh’s controversial comments have diminished ad revenue for the past year — and the slump remains a “residual hangover” for the station.

But the rift blew open over the weekend when a source close to the Limbaugh told the Daily News: “Lew needs someone to blame, (so) he’s pointing fingers instead of fixing his own sales problem.”

It’s an old kind of statement: Rush is NEVER to blame or at fault (unless he is..)

         

12 Comments

  1. VERY GOOD NEWS
    Clear Channel, the corporation most responsible for Fats Limbaugh, announced another year of losses:

    Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2012: CC Clear Channel …reported a loss of $203 million, versus a year-ago loss of $143.6 million. (The Limbaugh boycotts began last year in the first quarter) Revenue fell 1.3% to $1.34 billion. Revenue from media and entertainment, the company’s largest segment, was down 2.2%, Operating expenses dropped 3.5%.

    Clear Channel Media, is the vehicle used by private-equity firms Bain Capital LLC.

    Posted by Steve J. at 8:31 PM

  2. Regardless of whatever degree of popularity he gains or loses one thing always remains constant: He is a poisonous windbag.

  3. …a puffed-up toad…

  4. You can’t fool all of the people, all of the time. Sooner or later, Limbaugh will suffer his own self-generated demise—hopefully sooner! But for now let the rants go on. Given enough rope, he cannot help but hang himself!

  5. Rush will not suffer any sort of professional demise. Nor is he the problem. His professional existence and ongoing popularity are merely a barometer of public sentiment. The largest segment of radio listeners in this country don’t take issue when he gets sexist or racist. Not when he went on an ignorant and completely made up tirade about Sandra Fluke, not when he accused the President of sending American troops to kill Christians over the “Lords Resistance Army”, not back in the 90′s when he used his platform to attack then 13 year old Chelsea Clinton referring to her as the new white house dog, and not when he told a black caller back in the 80′s to “take that bone out of your nose and call me back”. His fans only embrace him for that. And the fact there are so many of them is depressing. The problem is not Rush, it is us.

  6. Also, I take a bit of an exception to the following line about “partisans” picking their side in this fight:

    “Leftists will gloat over Limbaugh’s problems and declare that the boycott of Limbaugh was a success and to keep it up.”

    See, I consider myself a moderate, despite the fact I am vehemently anti-Republican these days. I used to be on the fence between parties, I voted for Bush in 2000 and Dole in ’96. That was before the wheels came off the conservative wagon. But lines like the one quoted above seem to simply relegate my experiences and my opinions into a certain camp based on what they are and not how I reached them. Not only “Leftists” should be please that people took exception to Rush’s ignorant and completely misleading rant about Mrs. Fluke’s testimony, but anyone who values informed opinion and commentary should be happy about that. I didn’t pass judgement on Rush because he is Rush, but because of the fact that was the work of a professional hack. I would pass the same judgement on Jon Stewart if he went off on an ill informed and totally wrong rant. But reading that line,knowing that yes I was happy there is some repercussion coming Rush’s way I was pleased but apparently I’m a liberal whackjob now because of that. Whatever.

  7. Both of your most recent comments are right on the money, Slamfu, and I hope you don’t mind with me quoting what I believe are your most salient — and totally germane and correct — points:

    Rush will not suffer any sort of professional demise. Nor is he the problem. His professional existence and ongoing popularity are merely a barometer of public sentiment. The largest segment of radio listeners in this country don’t take issue when he gets sexist or racist. Not when he went on an ignorant and completely made up tirade about Sandra Fluke, not when he accused the President of sending American troops to kill Christians over the “Lords Resistance Army”, not back in the 90?s when he used his platform to attack then 13 year old Chelsea Clinton referring to her as the new white house dog, and not when he told a black caller back in the 80?s to “take that bone out of your nose and call me back”. His fans only embrace him for that. And the fact there are so many of them is depressing. The problem is not Rush, it is us.

    Thank you.

  8. Anyone who hired him in the first place knew full well what he was. Little late to blame him for declining revenues. He has SO much support from listeners, as well as those in government who profit most from his bigotry and insanity, there will always be a place for Rush. The Republicans will see to it.

  9. Slamfu and Dorian,

    I do not doubt that the people who give Rush his audience are also culpable for enabling his distasteful commentaries. However, I think many of us, and not just those on the left, are finally reacting to his massacre of common decency, in the name of spreading delusional truths!

    There was a time when Senator McCarthy held the nation spellbound with his rants about communists in Congress—probably because his audience was ,at the time, so receptive to the “red Scare.” I also believe that we are slowly, ever so haltingly, awakening from the bad dream which provides demagogues with fertile soil to plant their incendiary rants.

    I have long been an Obama supporter, but even I feel that the President’s re-election against all odds, is remarkable for someone who is continually the target of insane propaganda, while watching over a sluggish almost non-existent recovery—typified by unemployment rates that are still sky high and offering no clear happy ending in sight. In view of these handicaps, His reelection represents a complete miracle! The only explanation I can give in regards to this defying of all the odds, is that enough people distrusted Mitt Romney, more than they feared Obama.

    I think the POTUS is a very ethical man, but he was not elected because others agreed—they just decided to pick the lesser of two evils! The very fact that this upset happened, indicates that more and more Americans are offended over the offensive nature exuded by Mr. Limbaugh and other Conservative demagogues who attempt to spread their unsubstantiated propaganda. The fact that we are being pummeled by one extreme weather pattern after another is even causing many to doubt the supposed experts employed by Exxon Mobile, and, to quite sucking at the teat of an ethical monstrosity like Limbaugh.

    Entertainment is entertainment, but when the clowns begin to fall out of their tiny cars, the audience begins laughing at them—not with them! You can’t fool all of the people all of the time!

  10. @Petew:

    I agree with just about everything you say, except for something about “the lesser of two evils…”

    How about, “slightly better than the other…”

  11. I know we all hate Limbaugh (God knows I do), but let’s be more pragmatic here.

    No entertainment show carries on forever. Eventually people get tired of the same old thing and move on to something new. No entertainment career carries on forever, either. Unless said artist (and let’s not forget the Rush is, primarily, an entertainer) changes his or her schtick, that person’s talents will stagnate and become less in demand. This is seen over and over and over again.

    This is most likely a case of the new media eating into the audience of the old media. Limbaugh wants to be paid a lot, but doesn’t draw a lot, so down he goes.

    It’s business math.

  12. Dorian,

    I agree that, “slightly better than the other,” would be a better way to put it, but many who might have voted for Romney, would probably think along the lines of the other version.

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