Right about now, Rush Limbaugh may be wishing he had not called Sandra Fluke a slut. Even after an apology that few think he meant, advertisers have bailed on Limbaugh in record numbers. The flagship station for his show, WABC in New York, have been forced to play unpaid PSAs rather than commercials in most of his ad slots. Unprecedented amounts of dead air in some of the slots have been reported.
And now, even as Limbaugh tries to rally the faithful, Bloomberg has released a new poll that indicates that most Republicans think it's time for Rush Limbaugh to go away.
But, the numbers are showing things unraveling for Limbaugh. This week, his syndicator Premiere Networks, notified affiliate stations that they did not need to run their obligatory barter spots that offset the cost of Limbaugh's program in their markets. Those spots are fed from the syndicator, and they simply may not have enough varied material to send after the advertiser walkout. So, they are, in effect, telling the local stations, "You fill those slots. Don't let there be silence or PSAs." But, with a sustained local boycott nationwide, it's getting tougher and tougher to fill the silence, despite what Limbaugh tells his supporters. The proof is in the airtime. Commercials are not there.
Local markets are starting to address the question of whether or not the Limbaugh program should be dropped there. One station, WISN in Milwaukee, posted a blog entry asking that very question. Local journalist Duane Dudek made a couple of salient points that should be looked at in all Limbaugh markets.
Is there a chance that WISN-AM (1130) would ever drop the conservative talk show hosted by Rush Limbaugh?
Unlikely, considering the show is distributed by the station's owner.
According to Talkers Magazine, Limbaugh's show reaches 15 million listeners a week and is the top-rated radio talk show in the nation. Second-ranked Sean Hannity has 14 million listeners.
Locally, his ratings picture is not so rosy.
Limbaugh's show on WISN-AM is 11th-ranked in its time slot. Local conservative talker Jeff Wagner, airing opposite on WTMJ-AM (620), is ranked second, with almost twice as many listeners.
The number of stations Limbaugh is on is commonly listed as 650. However, on his own site, there are only 594 listed. When you start to research those stations to find contacts to speak with, you soon start to realize that many of these are Clear Channel stations, which have no choice in the matter of whether or not it is in their local interest to air Limbaugh's program.
What would Limbaugh's next likely move be, if bad comes to worse?
Satellite radio is a possibility, as is an online format. It seems unlikely that Limbaugh will tell his listeners that he has lost so many advertisers that he is forced to leave terrestrial radio. When a boycott against Dr. Laura Schlessinger killed her television show and finally forced her off radio, she told her fans that she was going online so as to regain her First Amendments rights.