The New York Times is taking note of how much El Rushbo’s repeated attacks on Georgetown University law student, Sandra Fluke is still keeping advertisers off of the show. In place of paid advertisers, PSAs now fill some of the time during commercial breaks, “a consequence of an ad boycott against the conservative talk show host that is now nearly two weeks old,” notes the paper.
It is, analysts say, the most serious rebellion against the show in the more than 20 years it has been airing. This week, new evidence emerged that the ad boycott was costing Premiere Radio Networks money. According to a Times source, nearly $2 million in revenue has been lost to date on the show.
Limbaugh apologized to Fluke 3/3, three days after calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute,” but national advertisers have continued to shun his show: “The case is a reminder that associations with offensive figures — no matter how popular they might be — carries risks for companies,” notes the Times.
To date, Premiere has stood by El Rushbo, defending his right to express opinions and otherwise saying next to nothing in public. “They’re giving it time,” a radio exec with direct knowledge of Premiere’s strategy told the paper.
On 3/12, Premiere caused a stir by telling its news and talk affiliates — the ones that carry Limbaugh’s show — that for the next two weeks, they could stop running the barter ad spots they were normally required to broadcast. “Replace them with LifeLock and Lear Financial or a local spot of your choice,” said an internal memo, referring to two companies that remain sponsors.
The article also noted something penned by RBR-TVBR: “Carl Marcucci, the managing editor for the Radio and Television Business Report, wrote in a column last week that companies that didn’t advertise on Mr. Limbaugh’s show, but did advertise on the newscasts that precede his show, “are being spooked into staying away” from the radio format in general. He said that the “Twitter bombing” by Mr. Limbaugh’s opponents “is hurting the broadcast companies and the jobs that they create.”
Last week, some local listeners even noticed dead air, according to Media Matters. The liberal media monitoring group that has been campaigning against Limbaugh for years found that on 3/13, on WABC-AM NY, nearly every commercial spot was a PSA.
Along with LifeLock and Lear Financial, at least one other advertiser, Hillsdale College in Michigan, remains supportive of Limbaugh. An ad for Hillsdale appeared on his website 3/13. In a statement, Hillsdale said that his remarks about Fluke were “of a kind that are destructive to reasonable political discourse,” but that it accepted his apologies.
RBR-TVBR observation: Every time a talker creates a stir like this, it hurts the medium as a whole. It’s a Catch-22, because allowing frank, controversial dialogue is at the heart of a Talk show’s ratings success, but once that fine line is crossed and the situation is not handled properly (i.e. sincere apologies, inviting the injured on the air, etc.), the wound just keeps on bleeding.