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Earlier this year a fierce feud broke out between Rush Limbaugh and one of his radio distributors, Cumulus Media. The Cumulus CEO, Lew Dickey, went public with his observation that Limbaugh’s vulgar misogyny and hate speech was sending advertisers fleeing. Dickey told the company’s shareholders that they were losing millions of dollars as a result of an audience and advertiser boycott that began after Limbaugh had called student activist Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute”
Limbaugh took umbrage at the suggestion that his boorishness was responsible for the lost ads and threatened to take his program elsewhere. However, it seems that Cumulus has beaten him to the punch according to sources who spoke to Politico, who say that Cumulus will drop both Limbaugh and Sean Hannity by year’s end:
“Cumulus has decided that it will not renew its contracts with either host, the source said, a move that would remove the two most highly rated conservative talk personalities from more than 40 Cumulus channels in major markets.”
There is the possibility that the parties are still posturing in an attempt to secure better deals, but Politco’s sources say that Limbaugh’s syndicator is unlikely to come down to a figure that Cumulus would accept. Cumulus, in the meantime, has been scouting new talent for replacement hosts. And when 48 of your 50 biggest advertisers have directed that their ads not be placed on Limbaugh and Hannity, Cumulus has little incentive to negotiate.
If Limbaugh and Hannity are evicted from their radio perches at the Cumulus stations they currently occupy, their distributor, Clear Channel, will likely find them new digs on their own Premier network. This move will not be without a fair amount of turbulence. The shows could go dark for some weeks or months while new stations are found and the contracts of the hosts residing there are unwound. Which raises another problem that is probably keeping Glenn Beck up tonight. That’s because Premiere already distributes Beck who broadcasts at the same time as Limbaugh. So if Limbaugh is moved to the Premiere stations it may be Beck who is shoved aside.
While there is a certain amount of schadenfreude derived from watching these rightist dinosaurs flailing in the tar pits of their own making, the end result is not much prettier a picture. Limbaugh and Hannity are likely to land somewhere eventually. And Cumulus could replace them with Mike Huckabee, Mark Levin, and/or Michael Savage. So the airwaves will end up with just as much repugnant blather. But the show will have an entertaining, if too brief, intermission.