Days of Change

Day 1231 – The Radio Empire Strikes Back

March 19, 2012
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Last week, Media Matters stated that the Rush Limbaugh boycott was working because WABC in New York aired a number of PSAs instead of commercials with an additional bit of dead air. This says a lot more about them than Rush. For example.

  • In typical bi-coastal fashion, only the New York station’s broadcast has any relevance compared to the other hundreds of stations in the US carrying the show.
  • The scientific method is foreign to them. They did not compare the amount of advertising or dead air in a typical broadcast. By they, I assume it’s Eric Boehlert since MMFA only has a few employees.
  • They made no distinction between local and national advertisers. Removing local ads is taking from the affiliate revenue, but if they want to avoid the abuse and death threats until Twitter morons get bored, it’s their dime.
  • WABC may have an interest in damaging Rush’s brand. Their owner, Cumulus Media, wants to counter program with Mike Huckabee.

Besides the frequent lying by boycott supporters,  this post from Legal Insurrection puts the lie to the willingness of advertisers to leave a large audience. Many advertisers tacitly “joined” the boycott but may be preparing to sneak back into local spots once the heat dies down. National sponsors like Sleep Train and Carbonite who piled on by making statements about how bad Rush was have found themselves with a big hole in their potential customer base.

The thing people should know about AM talk radio is that there are only a few stations in each market that have enough of a budget for any kind of syndication. Of those, one gets Rush Limbaugh and the others scramble to get something that anyone else will listen to. If a station were to make the choice to drop Rush, another station would take up the slack. Rush Limbaugh’s ratings may be “down,” but he has more listeners than Fox News has viewers in all its original hours put together. He basically forced Larry King to leave radio when he tried to start a 10am-1pm show in the 1990s. The same happened to O’Reilly’s partial morning show. People like Sean Hannity succeed by starting six minutes after 3pm Eastern.

Media Matters cannot initiate a real boycott. Much like the Occupy people, they are small in number but big in harassment. Giving in for a few weeks is a necessary expense. After that, there’s real money involved. Outrage has a clock, and Kony 2012 is the new outrage. In a month it may be gas prices. All I know is that Sandra Fluke won’t forgive Limbaugh, but she’ll give a pass to Obama when he makes sure Catholic universities don’t have to pay for contraception. Maybe she could start an ad campaign on the radio.

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