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OPINION - Rush and Sean and Savage

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  I’ve blogged before about Rush Limbaugh and Cumulus Media   There have been several developments while I was on vacation.

Let’s start with Michael Savage. Last week during his program, Savage boldly proclaimed that he would soon be the new king of afternoon-drive radio. (His program currently airs at night.)  The time-change is correct. Most Cumulus stations are dropping Sean Hannity. Savage’s show is distributed by Cumulus; they will move him into afternoons on the stations they own.

This change is possible because Premiere Radio Networks, the syndicator of Rush Limbaugh and Hannity, won’t force Cumulus to take both shows as a package. And Cumulus – which threatened not to renew Rush Limbaugh on their stations – blinked. They’ll keep Rush. They’ll drop Sean. The change is being reported in several radio trade-papers this morning.

There is an exception. The Rush Limbaugh Show will change affiliates in New York City. Rush and Sean will move to WOR, which is owned by Premiere’s parent-company Clear Channel, and WABC will have Michael Savage and a host-to-be-announced.

These changes will start at the end of the year.

Cumulus President and CEO Lew Dickey had said publicly that Rush Limbaugh’s negative comments about activist Sandra Fluck had cost his stations millions. Well, yes-and-no. The episode was an embarrassment for conservative talk radio. Many national advertisers asked that their commercials air at other times – not in Rush’s show. Yet Rush’s ratings went up, and as sure as the sun rises in the East, a large audience and advertising dollars always find each other. Rush Limbaugh is a top-rated program. If you run a news-talk station, there is no substitute. If you’re losing money on The Rush Limbaugh Show, that’s more of an indictment of your station’s sales effort than the program itself.

Chris Conley