It’s been well over a week now since Rush Limbaugh’s “slut” outburst, but advertisers continue to flee him, with some now swearing off conservative talk radio all together. In a memo released yesterday, Premiere Radio Networks, which syndicates Limbaugh’s show and is owned by the country’s largest radio station operator, Clear Channel Communications, listed 98 major corporate advertisers who only want their spots run during programs free of content “deemed to be offensive or controversial.” The memo then explicitly names (almost universally conservative) talk radio hosts Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity as personas non grata. Their shows, advertisers believe, are “environments likely to stir negative sentiment from a very small percentage of the listening public.”
And these are not just the mattress companies and legal services websites that first abandoned Limbaugh, but Fortune 500 mega-sponsors like McDonald’s, Ford, GM, and car insurance companies Allstate and Geico. While it is unclear what effect, if any, this statement will have on Beck, Hannity, and the others, Limbaugh is definitely hurting, having now lost close to 50 advertisers. On Thursday, his program had only seven paid ads, and those were from companies in the process of pulling their sponsorship — the rest of the time was filed with 77 public service announcements and five minutes of dead air. But, as the publisher of a talk radio trade magazine told NPR yesterday, this latest kerfuffle has actually upped Limbaugh’s audience numbers, which is the only thing that really matters in the long run.