Book coverRush Limbaugh may end his affiliation with Cumulus Media's 40 radio station network after its boss complained that the advertiser boycott triggered when Limbaugh called a college student a slut on air cost his company up to $5.5 million in ad sales.
The move may simply be contract renegotiation tactics, however — Limbaugh's deal with Cumulus comes up for renewal at the end of this year.
The spat does illustrate that the advertiser boycotts of both Limbaugh and Fox News Channel's Glenn Beck actually inflicted real financial damage: Fox recently told Politico that Beck has not been completely transparent about why he left the channel in 2011:
"Glenn Beck wasn't trying to save his soul, he was trying to save his ass," a Fox News spokesperson said, as first reported by Politico. "Advertisers fled his show and even Glenn knows what that means in our industry. Yet, we still tried to give him a soft landing. Guess no good deed goes unpunished."
The two advertiser boycotts of Limbaugh and Beck were extremely unusual in their length and scope. More than 129 advertisers signed a pledge not to run paid media on Limbaugh's radio shows. Both Limbaugh and Beck ended up running the equivalent of dead air on their shows (house ads in Beck's case and actual dead air in Limbaugh's case) because of a lack of ads.
Lew Dickey, the CEO of WABC parent company Cumulus, told analysts that Limbaugh's remarks about Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke — Limbaugh called her a "slut" because she supports healthcare coverage for contraception — cost Cumulus 1% of revenue during the period.
That's as much as $5.5 million in sales, Politico notes.
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