Over the weekend, the news got out that 98 advertisers have dropped not only Rush Limbaugh, but the rest of the right-wing radio crowd:
They’ve specifically asked that you schedule their commercials in dayparts or programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity). Those are defined as environments likely to stir negative sentiment from a very small percentage of the listening public.
The list of advertisers includes companies like GM, McDonald’s and State Farm who weren’t named sponsors of any of those shows, but whose ad network buys might have aired during those programs. As Media Matters has documented, Rush’s flagship station, WABC in New York, has mainly been airing public service announcements because of lack of advertisers.
Bill Maher got upset about the treatment Limbaugh’s been getting, saying it’s a free speech issue, but come on: Rush and the rest of the right-wing radio crowd aren’t being denied the right to speak. Instead, the twenty-five year fantasy that right-wing radio is a mainstream American phenomenon is finally ending now that radio hosts have decided to lead the fight against contraception, and when you’re no longer in the mainstream, you can’t attract mainstream advertisers.
Anyone who’s ever subscribed to Mother Jones is familiar with this phenomenon. I don’t subscribe now, but unless things have changed radically, McDonald’s, GM and the rest aren’t advertising there, for a simple reason: what Mother Jones prints is offensive to too many GM customers, not to mention GM itself. Mother Jones is financed by a mix of donations, grants and advertising from companies whose products are pitched directly at people with progressive values (like social investment firms). Similarly, Rush and the rest are going to have to re-tool with advertisers who cater to the 27%. Apparently this group is profitable for companies selling tinnitus cures and gold. Rush might not be able to make $50 million/year and fly around in a private jet by hawking quack remedies and begging the Koch brothers for donations, but he’ll no doubt be able to make a living.
Maher can quit being worried about Rush and his buddies for two more reasons. First, if anyone believes in letting the free market do its business in an unfettered fashion, it’s this crew, so they’re getting a dose of their own medicine. Second, the right loves to boycott just as much as any other interest group, even though they haven’t been very successful lately.