On its first quarter earnings call with investors, Cumulus Media CEO Lew Dickey reported a $2.4 million dollar decline in revenue associated with syndicated talk (which is a polite way of referencing fallout from the Rush Limbaugh's loss of advertisers without calling Limbaugh out by name). Dickey has reported millions in losses associated with Limbaugh in previous quarters as well.
Anticipating this report, a "source close to" Rush Limbaugh's show began making the rounds insisting that Limbaugh is not to blame for the losses, while indicating that Limbaugh is considering walking away from Cumulus, which currently carries his show on 40 of its stations.
Asked to address the Limbaugh issue during today's earnings call, Dickey flatly rejected the notion that Limbaugh is blameless, explaining: "We've had a tough go of it the last year. The facts are indisputable regarding the impact certain things have had on ad dollars."
Indeed. As I explained yesterday, this Limbaugh source's contention doesn't stand up scrutiny:
In fact, Limbaugh has become so toxic that he's hurting other conservative talk shows. At a Talkers forum last year, Norm Pattiz, CEO of Courtside Entertainment, summed up the destructive effect Limbaugh has had on the entire industry, noting that a "tremendous chunk of advertising revenue was wiped out in terms of support for national talk radio programs." Pattiz added that "the movement in talk radio to some degree is moving away from conservative talk radio and into other genres."
Limbaugh has done nothing to signal to advertisers that he's not going to put them in a damaging situation, like he did to so many of his advertisers last year when he engaged in a three-day rant against Sandra Fluke. Instead, he's continued with same bigotry and recklessness that forced advertisers to walk away in the first place.
Limbaugh is just as volatile as ever. It's why he's having so much trouble filling his ad space. And, this volatility is why Rush Limbaugh remains bad for business.
Aside from Limbaugh's recklessness, the consequences his show has experienced is due in large part to scores of independent organizers, like the Flush Rush and the #StopRush community. Their participation matters and is having a tremendous effect.
From the May 6 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation:
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Currently, Cumulus Media carries Limbaugh's show on 40 of its stations, including Limbaugh's flagship WABC in New York as well as stations in Chicago, Washington DC and Dallas. If Limbaugh and Cumulus part ways, it would represent a significant reduction in Limbaugh's overall footprint and serve as yet another reminder that Limbaugh's brand is bad for business.
Limbaugh doesn't appreciate how Cumulus' CEO keeps telling investors that the radio host is hurting ad sales and costing the company millions. So, the weekend before Cumulus' first quarter investor meeting, "a source close to" Limbaugh's show went public with word that Limbaugh will walk if Cumulus' CEO continues to speak about the host's negative impact on business.
Indeed. If I were Limbaugh, I wouldn't want the CEO of one of my major affiliates consistently informing the business community that my show is causing millions of dollars in losses every quarter.
This Limbaugh source argues that Cumulus' problems begin and end with Cumulus and insists that Limbaugh's show is not causing any issues in the revenue department. But, reality and Limbaugh's own words demonstrate otherwise.
Cumulus isn't the only radio company reporting significant losses attributable to Limbaugh. Dial Global has also attributed millions in losses to Limbaugh. Many others in the industry report negative consequences resulting from Limbaugh's recklessness. Consequently, this Limbaugh source's contention that Cumulus' advertising problems have nothing to do with Limbaugh falls apart when we look at the rest of the industry. What would this source say in response to the ills faced by other companies in connection to Limbaugh's show? That it's all their fault too?
Additionally, Mediaite reports that "the vast majority of national advertisers now refuse to air their ads during Rush Limbaugh's show." This is consistent with what industry observers have been saying for months as well as my own experience.
Further, Limbaugh himself recently complained about his advertising troubles. Although, Limbaugh blames his advertising woes on mainstream media buyers "trying to harm" him, warning that they "are young women fresh out of college, liberal feminists who hate conservatism."
So, on the one hand, we have multiple radio companies reporting losses directly attributable to Limbaugh's show as well as Limbaugh himself complaining about media buyers. On the other hand, we have an unnamed source close to Limbaugh's show denying reality about Limbaugh's advertiser woes and attacking one of the host's biggest affiliates.
At this point, it doesn't really matter who you believe. The fact that Limbaugh's affiliates are consistently reporting losses and that Limbaugh is now attacking them is evidence of the one thing that has become undeniable: Rush Limbaugh is bad for business.
Onward we go...
From the April 22 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' Geraldo:
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Conservative media figures are using the Boston Marathon bombings to pressure lawmakers to halt attempts at immigration reform, the details of which were released last week by eight bi-partisan members of the Senate known as the "Gang of Eight." By suggesting that immigration reform could facilitate future terrorist attacks, right-wing media are attempting to obstruct legislation that a majority of Americans support.
Fox News figures are dismissing the voices of the families who suffered in a mass shooting in Newtown, CT by claiming they're being used and exploited by Democrats, discounting the efforts they have made to encourage Congress to pass stronger gun laws.
On April 11, the Senate overcame a Republican-led filibuster that tried to block the beginning of debate on stronger gun laws with a 68-31 vote. The impetus for the new gun proposals was driven by the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut that left 26 victims dead, most of them young children. President Obama had been urging Congress to act to strengthen guns laws in response to the shooting for some time.
According to several Fox News figures, Obama has been using the families of the Newtown shooting victims as props for a political agenda.
On April 11, Fox News host Sean Hannity called the effort to strengthen gun laws "naked exploitation of dead children and grieving families," while his guest Ann Coulter said that Democrats are "play[ing] with these victims." The previous night, Hannity stated that the president "is once again using families of tragedy as props for his agenda." Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said on his April 11 radio show that Obama is "using the Newtown families to push for background checks." Fox News White House reporter Ed Henry similarly said on April 9 that "for the second straight day, the White House used the victims of the Newtown tragedy to make their case." On his April 9 radio show, Fox News host Mike Huckabee suggested that taking some of the relatives of the Newtown shooting victims to Washington, DC on Air Force One to make their case for stronger gun laws was "an exploitation of those parents."
Such an attitude does a disservice to the many Newtown families that want tougher gun laws in the wake of their tragedies. Several of the families appeared on CBS' 60 Minutes on April 7 to discuss what kind of gun violence prevention measures they would like to see signed into law, saying that universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines were important. After the vote that broke the GOP's threatened filibuster, more than 30 families of Newtown victims released a statement criticizing those who tried block an up-or-down vote on new gun legislation, saying that "[t]he senators who have vowed to filibuster this bill should be ashamed of their attempt to silence efforts to prevent the next American tragedy."
From the April 8 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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From the April 5 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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Conservative media infighting over Dr. Ben Carson deteriorated into name-calling when radio host Mark Levin attacked Fox News' Dana Perino. Levin's attacks were in response to a segment on Fox's The Five in which Perino claimed that the media are not doing Carson "any favors" by hosting him so often. Levin called Perino a "jerk" and suggested she was one of the "preening, elitist, country-club Republicans." He also said that Perino's statements were "pathetic."
Levin's vitriol came during the April 2 edition of his show and seemed to be a response to comments Perino made on Fox News' The Five earlier in the day. Perino criticized Carson's numerous cable and talk news appearances -- which included an appearance on Levin's show April 1 -- saying, "I do not think anyone does him any favors by burning him up on -- putting him out everywhere, all the time."
Levin joined Rush Limbaugh and Megyn Kelly in defending Carson, but Carson has fallen out of favor with other right-wing media figures after he made controversial statements equating marriage equality to bestiality and pedophilia. Fox News has also received criticism for giving him a platform.
From the March 26 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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From the March 19 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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It's been one year since Rush Limbaugh's invective-filled tirade against then-Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke. With hundreds of advertisers and millions of dollars lost, the business of right-wing radio is suffering, but Rush Limbaugh continues to act as if it were business as usual, which is why Limbaugh is still bad for business.
On February 29, 2012, Rush Limbaugh initiated a three-day smear campaign against Sandra Fluke, launching 46 personal attacks against her. This moment and Limbaugh's subsequent refusal to apologize for, or even acknowledge, all but two of those attacks put the spotlight on the right-wing talk business model that Limbaugh helped construct.
During the following weeks, headlines tracked in near real-time the names of advertisers exiting Limbaugh's show as pundits and natterers speculated about Limbaugh's future. As so often happens, the buzz faded and the news cycle rolled on. But the consequences didn't fade, they intensified. This is due in large part to scores of independent organizers, like the Flush Rush and the #StopRush community.
Rush Limbaugh's recklessness damaged the radio industry and the business of conservative talk.
When advertisers began fleeing from his program, Limbaugh dismissed the losses as akin to losing a "couple of French fries" and insisted that "nobody is losing any money here." This position seemed less tenable after Limbaugh employed the services of a crisis manager to handle the fallout, and the right-wing talker's protestations were proven false once financial reports started rolling in.
Journalism veterans and media ethicists are urging Geraldo Rivera to give up his many media perches if he intends to run for U.S. Senate, saying his Cumulus radio program and Fox News platform give him an unfair and unethical advantage.
Since Rivera first revealed his intention to explore a run for the U.S. Senate from New Jersey on his syndicated radio show, he has promoted the idea on Fox News Channel and the Fox News Latino website.
During an appearance Friday on Fox & Friends, Rivera suggested that he will continue to appear on the network while he "hone[s] a message," and do so until "it's no longer legal."
On the January 31 edition of his Cumulus radio show, Rivera told listeners that he is "truly contemplating" running for U.S. Senate in New Jersey. Following a discussion this morning of various news events, including the suicide attack in Turkey, Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson asked Rivera about the "firestorm" he had created by announcing a possible run. In response, Rivera launched into what co-host Steve Doocy appropriately labeled a "stump speech."
In both his Fox & Friends appearance and his Fox News Latino column, Rivera touted his stance on various political issues. During the Fox & Friends interview, Rivera suggested that he is a "modern Republican" that could appeal to "a point of view that is unrepresented in states like New Jersey."
Asked to comment on the potential conflicts and unfair advantage of his candidacy by email, Rivera responded with this statement:
The campaign is still a year away, so I still have significant exploration ahead before I commit. In the meantime the ideas I published today in my FNL column are the ideas that I've been unabashedly articulating for years on Fox and here on Cumulus radio.
Cumulus Spokesperson Golden Davidson also defended Rivera and hinted that he is unlikely to be asked to give up his radio perch anytime soon, stating in an email:
Talk radio hosts talk about lots of things and if at some point this is more than talk we'll address the issue appropriately then.
But mixing his political aspirations and his media posts did not sit well with several news veterans and journalism observers who told Media Matters that Rivera was engaged in a clear conflict of interest that should be stopped immediately.
"When I first saw this, the thing that really concerns me again is not so much Geraldo doing this, but I am surprised that Fox News is letting itself be used this way," said David Zurawik, The Baltimore Sun's media critic. "It is really, honestly one of the most troubling [things], really wrong that Fox allows itself to play this political role the way it did with [Rick] Santorum and with [Newt] Gingrich, to go on as long as they did into those primaries and be on the air. These guys have benefited enormously from being on Fox and having access to that large and active political audience they have.
From the August 20 edition of Cumulus Media Network's The Mike Huckabee Show:
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Yesterday, Cumulus Media, a major affiliate of Rush Limbaugh's show reported millions of dollars in losses attributable Limbaugh's advertiser troubles.
During a call with investors Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey acknowledged Limbaugh's "drag" on business while being careful not to mention Limbaugh by name:
On Thursday, speaking to investors again, Dickey said that, though his profits were up in his latest quarter, his revenues were down thanks to ten out of the 570 stations he owns. These stations, he said, were mostly "news/talk" formats in major media markets.
Dickey chalked up the sluggish performance -- the top three stations cost him $5.5 million, he said -- in part to "some extraordinary issues," such as "the boycott that we saw from some remarks in a talk radio show." That, he said, had "impacted us." (emphasis added)
Dickey made news when Cumulus last reported earnings in May when he said that the Limbaugh advertiser efforts lost his company millions of dollars in the first and second quarters, but indicated that things would be back to normal in June. Limbaugh's defenders heralded Dickey's projection as proof that the efforts to hold Rush Limbaugh accountable had failed. Back then, I analyzed the report and explained why Dickey's prediction would likely prove inaccurate.
As it turns out, my analysis was correct. Things did not return to normal in June. On yesterday's call, Dickey informed investors that he anticipated the drag on business to continue for at least another six months to a year.
Dickey has good reason to anticipate a continued drag.
First, Limbaugh's advertiser troubles are far from over.
Second, Limbaugh continues to engage in the same kinds of vitriol and reckless attacks that put his intersecting business interests and affiliates in this position in the first place, like his renewed attacks on Sandra Fluke or a recent statement that "feminism was established" so "unattractive women" could have "easier access to the mainstream." This continued recklessness signals to advertisers that Limbaugh remains volatile. For many advertisers, this volatility is what keeps them away. They look at Limbaugh's long record of vitriol, they see the damange to businsess it can unpredictably create sometimes, they recognize that he continues to engage in similar conduct and they rightfully conclude that the risk just isn't worth it.
Bottom line: Rush Limbaugh continues to demonstrate that he's bad for business.
And, onward we go...