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Limbaugh feuds with host company over ad revenues lost to ‘slut’ boycott

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, May 6, 2013 9:21 EDT
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Republican shock jock Rush Limbaugh covers his face as an ex-Marine calls him a "Nazi" during a radio segment in 2009. Screenshot via YouTube.
 
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Republican shock jock Rush Limbaugh could soon find himself without a distribution company thanks to an internal feud over ad revenues lost amid a boycott of his show, triggered when he called a Democratic activist a “slut” and a “prostitute” for speaking in favor of birth control coverage.

It’s not likely that Rush will be off the air anytime soon, but his loyal listeners in the nation’s largest media markets may have to search the dial to find him.

A source close to Limbaugh tells Politico that he’s considering breaking free of Cumulus Media once his contract is up at the end of 2013, effectively pulling his show off the largest talk radio platform in the world.

The leak from Limbaugh’s people coincides with Cumulus Media CEO Lew Dickey’s scheduled earnings call set for Tuesday morning. “The Rush Limbaugh Show” is the company’s most valuable program, and losing it could be devastating.

Politico noted that, while the boycott’s total damage is not publicly known, Dickey’s statements in 2012 and March 2013 indicated that the network’s largest stations have been bleeding revenue. While the CEO has not elaborated on the causes of the company’s financial woes, he did say in March that the troubles were “due to some of the issues that happened a year ago.”

March 1, 2012 was a particularly troubling day for Cumulus Media. Reacting to comments Limbaugh made just one day prior, Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke appeared on MSNBC and excoriated the host’s reaction to her congressional testimony in favor of birth control coverage. The boycott was soon to follow.

Within months, hundreds of advertisers fled not just Limbaugh’s show, but right-wing radio altogether, withdrawing from the whole market and washing their hands of Limbaugh’s controversy. Many companies also insisted they were not aware their ads were running on Limbaugh’s show.

It wasn’t long thereafter that stations featuring Limbaugh began running dead air instead of commercials, and public service announcements sold at ultra-low cost became the new norm.

While some of the advertisers have returned, Cumulus Media appears to have been hobbled. The company’s earnings per share growth rate plunged more than 83 percent in Q2 2013, and revenue growth was down 9.2 percent. Cumulus Media’s FY 2012 earnings statement is even more grim, showing a net revenue loss of 151.3 percent.

“It’s a very serious discussion, because Dickey keeps blaming Rush for his own revenue problems,” Politico’s source reportedly said. “Dickey’s talk stations underperform talk stations owned by other operators in generating revenue by a substantial margin. It’s not a single show issue… it’s a failure of the entire station. And trying to blame Rush for that is not much of a business partnership.”

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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