Is Rush Limbaugh Costing The Radio Industry?

It’s an interesting question; is the hateful conservative rhetoric that Limbaugh is the undisputed ruler of costing the radio industry as a whole? There are those that seem to think so, including radio host Doug Stephan. He’s the president of Stephan Multimedia and host of the “Good Day” program, and he brings up some good points about the danger that people like Rush pose to radio:

Let’s face it, the agencies and advertisers are how we survive. So to tell them that their clients are stupid for not staying in an atmosphere in which they don’t want to be is akin to the Republicans not reading the tea leaves about changing demographics.I’m not here to argue the point, but rather to tell you what this ONE incident has cost me as an independent in a sea of big corporate operators, who are obviously losing tens of millions of dollars due to this one event.

So far this year, my losses are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Cancellations, avoidance and decisions to just not buy across the whole format, no matter what the content…


I’m not looking for Limbaugh to send me a check (although that would be nice), but I do think we have to let it be known that his actions have been devastating to our survival.

—Doug Stephan: Talk Must Expand Beyond Politics to Survive, November 19, 2012

The dangers that hate speech like this poses to the radio industry can be hard to quantify. Radio makes money through advertisers, and advertisers aren’t generally directly affected by what the radio hosts say. However, the trend as of late — especially with Limbaugh — is to boycott the advertisers and attempt to limit ad revenue to the hosts. It appears to be working, as reported by the Daily KOS:

The business model for a public air waves radio station is matching advertising dollars with listeners. Advertising pays all the bills. It becomes obvious, then, that advertisers are the real power behind any publicly broadcast program. Advertising funds program content, and all else.

An advertiser boycott does not directly influence audience. Rather, it focuses on the funding that makes listenership possible. Thus, the best measure of the impact of an advertiser boycott (in the short term) is, what’s happening to the radio conglomerates? Three of the biggest, — Dial Global, Cumulus, and Clear Channel — all appear to be in trouble.

Is it too much to hope that hateful talk radio will be taken off the air?

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