The Rush Limbaugh Program may end its affiliation agreement with Cumulus Media at the end of this year — a huge radio shakeup that will move like a quake through the talk radio industry.
and The New York Daily News
reported that 40 Cumulus-owned radio stations would lose the rights to the most popular talk-radio program in the country if the move takes place.
The show, which is the gold standard in political talk radio, also may be picked up by competing regional radio stations in Washington, New York, Chicago, Dallas and other major markets. Limbaugh moving to another network is one of those once-in-a-generation events that will force competing hosts and stations to shake up their own lineups and pending contracts.
Sources told the News
and Politico that Limbaugh is angry that Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey has blamed the company's advertising losses on Limbaugh's controversial remarks about Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student.
In February 2012, Limbaugh referred to Fluke as "a slut" because she had called on Congress to mandate insurance coverage of birth control. The subsequent controversy over those remarks resulted in a significant advertising boycott. But Limbaugh has insisted all along that liberals have misrepresented the effect the episode had on his bottom line.
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How much Limbaugh contributes to Cumulus' bottom line is not well known.
In an August 2012 earnings call, Dickey said Cumulus' top three stations had lost $5.5 million, in part because of the boycott. In a March 2013 earnings call, Dickey said the company's talk-radio side had "been challenged ... due to some of the issues that happened a year ago," Politico reported.
Cumulus has a contract with Limbaugh through 2013. They declined to talk on the record to Politico and the News apparently, which cited only unnamed sources.
"Cumulus owns the premier talk radio distribution platform in the United States and doesn't comment on negotiations with talent under contract," Davidson Goldin, a Cumulus spokesman, told Politico. Clear Channel, which distributes the Rush Limbaugh Program through its Premiere Radio division, also declined to comment.
“It’s a very serious discussion, because Dickey keeps blaming Rush for his own revenue problems," the source close to the show told Politico. "Dickey’s talk stations underperform talk stations owned by other operators in generating revenue by a substantial margin. It’s not a single show issue. ... It’s a failure of the entire station. And trying to blame Rush for that is not much of a business partnership."
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