SAN DIEGO – March 6, 2012 – The country’s fixation with the Rush Limbaugh controversy continues unabated, nearly a week after the conservative radio talk show host ripped into Georgetown University law school student Sandra Fluke following her comments favoring government funding for contraceptives care during a congressional hearing called by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
With nothing else to talk about, how else are people going to fill up their Facebook pages and Twitter streams? Apparently the Kardashians aren’t doing anything interesting. The awards season is over. “American Idol” is pretty boring this year, and we still have a week before March Madness. And really, the only people who care about Super Tuesday are… uh, I’ll get back to you on that one.
Besides, isn’t it much easier and more fun to talk about who’s a slut and who’s not, whether Bill Maher and Ed Schultz are ruder than Rush, what the women on “The View” and Stephen Colbert think, and whether Rush should be fired for what he said?
There is only one reason anyone who supports the right to freedom of speech in America should want Limbaugh off the air.
Limbaugh should get canned for the same reason other people in the media get canned: crummy ratings and poor revenue. Stop getting all hot and bothered about who’s advertising on Rush’s show and who isn’t. Stop listening, and you won’t have a clue what companies run commercials on Limbaugh’s show. Their products and services will fall in the advertising forest with no one there to hear them. Companies will not put up with this for long.
Just like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” always had the power to return home to Kansas, you have always had the power to take Rush Limbaugh off the air – or not. It has nothing to do with time wasting boycotts or Twitter campaigns.
Every listening device I’m aware of has this marvelous feature called an OFF button and everyone is permitted to use it, no license necessary. The minute there are no listeners for the advertisers to reach, they will leave, for a far more important reason than language. They will leave due to a good business decision.
The public discussion about Limbaugh is raising his visibility and his ratings. If you exercise your right not to listen, and you aren’t talking about him anymore, Limbaugh’s ratings will plunge. Advertisers will rethink their investment. Local radio stations will replace his show with something that draws a bigger audience. Limbaugh’s show will die a well-deserved natural death. El Rushbo can exit and work on his golf game.
Al Franken and Glenn Beck both lost their shows for the same reason: terrible ratings. It’s the same reason Conan O’Brien is now on TBS and Don Imus is on Fox Business Network: bad ratings, not boycotts. It is the natural and democratic way of the media business.
Footnote: Imus was seemingly fired for a racially insulting remark, but the truth is Imus had lost one third of the stations that carried his show in the 18 months (from 90 affiliates down to 60) prior to getting canned by CBS. Imus subsequently sued for wrongful termination and won a multi-million dollar settlement.
Rush Limbaugh should not lose his show over anything he said about Sandra Fluke, or anyone else. People of any political persuasion should not be fired for what they say, particularly not in an environment where outrageous statements are encouraged and often applauded.
The American advertising industry as a whole isn’t exactly concerned with good taste. Advertisers are concerned with effectively reaching an audience for the least investment possible. If decorum and political correctness were an issue for most advertisers, there would be no such thing as “The Real Housewives” or “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”
If the public thinks the disappearance of a few dozen advertisers out of the hundreds of thousands of companies with advertising budgets will force radio stations across the country to drop Limbaugh’s show, it’s not going to happen.
Limbaugh’s available inventory of commercial time is by its nature a finite commodity. If you’re selling cars, when sales go up you manufacture more cars. Not the case with radio airtime. You get three hours daily of Limbaugh’s show and that’s it.
The boycott has opened up time for other companies who desperately want to reach Limbaugh’s adult conservative male audience among his 15 million listeners, and they will snap the ad time right up. This audience watches less and less television and listens to less music radio. They are instead spending time online or gaming. Limbaugh’s show is one of the few places to reach them other than sports. Advertisers are not going to give up this opportunity.
Limbaugh has every right to be an idiot on the air. So does every other American. You and I have every right to turn off the radio, or boycott his advertisers, or not.
When someone says something that offends, angers or just plain irritates me, I change the station. It is the most powerful action I can take. Meanwhile, I enjoy programs that would offend others. Take a look at Snoop Dogg’s GGN News online, for example. It’s a choice I want to have control over as an American. I don’t want to concede it to anyone else. It’s a choice I defend for you as well as for me, a choice I encourage you to exercise.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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