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  • Bill McKibben on why we should be worried about media consolidation and Facebook

    The author and activist talks to Media Matters about media trends, climate journalism, and his new novel 

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    "I think media activism is one of the most important parts of this whole resistance," Bill McKibben, influential climate activist and journalist, told Media Matters in a recent interview. His new novel, Radio Free Vermont, puts a spotlight on the importance of independent media. 

    "Just as we have got to go about the work of building a fundamentally healthy energy system, and a fundamentally healthy agriculture system, we have to go about the long, patient, crucial work of building a healthy information system again on this planet," he said.

    McKibben has published more than a dozen nonfiction books, many of them about climate change and environmental issues, but Radio Free Vermont is his first foray into fiction. It features a band of activist pranksters in Vermont who find creative ways to fight against corporate control and the big retail chains that push out locally owned businesses. The novel's protagonist, Vern Barclay, is spurred to become a rabble-rouser because the local radio station where he works is taken over by a corporation based in Oklahoma.

    McKibben says this aspect of the book was partly inspired by a frightening event that happened in Minot, ND, in 2002. In the middle of the night, a train derailment caused a dangerous chemical release into the town's air, ultimately killing one resident. When police tried to reach someone at the local radio station that was designated as the town's emergency broadcaster, they couldn't get ahold of anyone. Clear Channel Communications, a Texas-based conglomerate, owned that station and all five of the other commercial stations in Minot, and piped in prepackaged content from remote locations.

    "That really struck me," said McKibben.

    Clear Channel, now known as iHeartMedia, is the largest operator of radio stations in the U.S., with more than 850 in its control. Meanwhile, in the TV market, Sinclair Broadcast Group owns more stations than any company in the U.S. and is poised to acquire many more, which would enable it to squelch local voices and spread its right-wing messaging to the biggest media markets in the country.

    McKibben's character Barclay worries about "big media barons" and a federal rule that would "let the big media companies own even more TV and radio stations." He's right to worry: The Federal Communications Commission, now chaired by a Trump appointee, has been making decisions that will benefit Sinclair, such as rolling back a rule that required local news stations to maintain offices in the communities they serve.

    Another big problem with media in the U.S., according to McKibben, is the misinformation being spread via giant social media companies like Facebook, which "seem to be mostly sewers for sort of garbage information."

    "I think that we took the notion for granted that somehow the internet was going to perform this necessary work by itself, that it would accomplish an awful lot. I guess we were wrong," McKibben said with a rueful laugh. Facebook “seems to have introduced us to yet another new circle of hell where we look back fondly on the three monopolistic television networks that ruled our lives."

    Good journalism can break through the cacophony, though, especially when activists help to spread and amplify it, McKibben said. He pointed to investigative reporting by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times in 2015 exposing that Exxon knew the basics of climate science 40 years ago but buried that information and worked to stymie action to fight climate change. The reporting inspired advocates, political leaders, and state attorneys general to pursue investigations and lawsuits to hold Exxon accountable.

    But overall, media coverage of climate change has been lacking in both quality and quantity for decades, McKibben said. "Where it continues to fall down is in making people understand the urgency of the situation that we're in. People continue to perceive it as something that will happen in the future instead of something that is crashing into us now."

    He pointed to the string of record-breaking hurricanes and fires that have hit the U.S. in the last few months. "Those are all precisely the things that scientists have been saying for years will happen as we warm the planet, and journalists have not done a good job at making those connections in every single story as they should, over and over and over again."

    Climate change "is undoubtedly the biggest story of our day," McKibben said, but "the news media doesn't seize onto" that. "Every single day, there's something more dramatic happening than climate change. But every single day, there's nothing more important happening than climate change." So when disasters hit, media need to report on how extreme weather is linked to climate change. "When we have the opportunities to foreground that story, to make people understand the stakes, we should definitely be taking them."

    McKibben made his name as a pioneering climate journalist, but he wishes more reporters would have quickly followed him onto the beat. "When I was writing The End of Nature, the first book about all of this climate change 30 years ago, I was like a tiny bit worried in 1989 that someone else was going to write the book or the big story for The New Yorker or something and scoop me. It turns out I needn't have worried. For much, much longer than I've wanted to, I've had the biggest story on the planet more to myself than I should have."

  • Conservative radio host who mocked black victims of gun violence returns to race issue

    Michael Berry: "There is a simmering anger from a certain subset of blacks" 

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Conservative talk radio host Michael Berry chastised National Football League players for kneeling in protest during the pre-game national anthem on September 24 by claiming they are part of a “certain subset of blacks” who are “pissed off about everything.” Berry also suggested black players are protesting in the stadiums because they think “back in the neighborhood everyone will think you’re cool.”

    The Texas radio host previously received criticism for his racially insensitive weekly “Butcher Bill” segment in which he would mock primarily black victims of Chicago gun violence. In March 2017, Berry promised to end the segment, claiming he was trying to “make people laugh as a way to make people think” about the violence. Though the segment was discontinued, Berry has returned to making inflammatory remarks about minorities.

    During the morning edition of the September 25 The Michael Berry Show, the Houston-based radio host covered the September 24 peaceful wave of protests when numerous NFL players chose to kneel during the national anthem. The silent act of protest gained increased media attention when Trump criticized the protesters during a rally and tweeted that the protesting players should be “fired.” Berry claimed that though the players are “trying to get white players involved,” this is a “racial issue” that is seen in “every generation” from a group of African-Americans who are “pissed off at life.” From the September 25 edition of iHeartRadio’s The Michael Berry Show:

    MICHAEL BERRY (HOST): So now, what has happened is other players are all joining in, but it's not about their supposed issues with police officers. It’s just, it’s become one of those back in the neighborhood everyone will think you’re cool, look at you, black power. And this is a racial issue, let’s make no mistake about that. They’re trying to show that it's not, trying to get some white players involved, but this is a racial issue. This is -- and we have this every generation. We’ll have a group that will come along that’ll want to say we’re black and we’re pissed off about everything. Well, yes, you are. Yes, you are. You were pissed off before the police got involved, and you were pissed off before charges were brought against you. And you were pissed off at life.

    Berry went on to widen his monologue to cover race in general, claiming “a number of black people in America today are angry,” but “who the hell knows” why. The host called this a “simmering anger” that manifests itself in different ways including “a peacock strut” while crossing the street in the middle of traffic, saying this “subset of blacks” are “pissed off all the time, pissed off at everything.”

    Berry has previously come under fire for racially insensitive comments, including telling a black caller “when you act like a thug … you end up dead like a thug,” defending the Confederate flag as simply “heritage,” and claiming white people don’t kill each other the way black people do because “the dirty little secret is, black people don’t believe that black lives matter.” 

  • Chicago Urban League Calls On iHeartRadio To Break Silence On Racist Radio Host

    Chicago Urban League CEO Shari Runner: “There Is Zero Tolerance” For Segments On iHeartRadio That Ridicule The African-American Community 

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Civil rights and gun violence prevention organizations are continuing to call on iHeartRadio to break its silence on conservative radio host Michael Berry, who hosted a weekly segment called the “Butcher Bill” and “The Chicago Weekend Crime Report” that was dedicated to mocking victims of Chicago gun violence.

    Berry hosted the racially charged segment for several years on his iHeartRadio syndicated show The Michael Berry Show, and in March Talkers magazine reported that he would be honored with a “Talk Personality of the Year” award at the 2017 iHeartMusic Awards. After mounting pressure from several local Chicago news outlets, Berry issued a disingenuous apology for his “Butcher Bill” segment and pledged to end it.

    But iHeartRadio refused to publicly comment on the controversy or say whether Berry had actually received the award during the March 5 ceremony.

    Despite a letter from 21 civil rights and gun violence prevention groups calling on the company to confirm whether it gave Berry the award, and a letter from the Chicago Urban League and other Chicago groups calling for Berry to be fired, iHeartRadio has refused to publicly address the situation.

    During the April 10 edition of WVON’s The Talk Of Chicago, Chicago Urban League president and CEO Shari Runner said that there can be “zero tolerance” for characterizing African-Americans “as people who are lawless, unprofessional, [and] uncaring,” as Berry’s segment did. Runner highlighted iHeartRadio’s large African-American audience and suggested that advertisers should consider whether they want to be associated with iHeartRadio’s brand:

    From the April 10 edition of WVON’s The Talk Of Chicago:

    RUFUS WILLIAMS (GUEST HOST): Have you been able to get caught up with what’s going on from your staff, and just give us some opening thoughts on what you think about this situation? Then we got a couple calls I’d like to take too.

    SHARI RUNNER (CHICAGO URBAN LEAGUE): Yeah, I think it’s very important that we talk about how we as African-Americans manage our narrative. This is not the kind of thing that we want to let happen and lay silent about. It doesn’t -- it hasn’t gotten the kind of press that Bill O’Reilly has. But it is equally if not more important that we understand how people hijack and think about what it is that we are doing as African-Americans to say this is who we are and this is where we should be.

    WILLIAMS: That’s a good point because it really does ask the question: What is our tolerable level of insult? And we’ve got to know that this beyond the pale. This is certainly beyond it, and we can stop and see all of the media that comes when Bill O’Reilly has a sex abuse, sex whatever, issue. And everybody pays attention and advertisers fall from that. There needs to be the same kind of outcry. There needs to be the same kind of reduction that happens when our -- when we are mocked as a people in the way in which this has happened.

    RUNNER: Yeah. No question about it. There is no tolerance. There is zero tolerance as we’ve heard in a number of different ways, that we can allow African-American people to be characterized as people who are lawless, unprofessional, uncaring. This is a big deal and we need to start with this one thing, if not many things, to make sure that our community is characterized in the right light.

    WILLIAMS: So Shari, where we stopped in leading up to our chronology for -- to today, and where we have been with this response is, we stopped at the point of having had the conversation last week with Greg [Ashlock] of iHeartMedia who runs the region that includes this guy’s show down in Texas. So he was supposed to get back to Paula [Thornton Greear, senior vice president of Chicago Urban League,] by Friday, which he did not do. So where we are now is talking about what our next steps will be. And I know we haven’t collectively sat down and talked about that, but, what I would like to do is to talk about that. Get some thoughts from you, get some thoughts from here, get some thoughts from our audience. What is it that we think our next step should be? Because we did talk about the lack of diversity in the C-suite, we talked about the lack of diversity on their board, we talked about the fact that we need to understand where their dollars gets spent, the huge influence that iHeart has on our community given the number of African-American, the number of black listeners who listen to iHeart stations. So let’s talk about what we think our next steps should be from this point, having not heard from them through today.

    RUNNER: Well it's very, very important. And I know that we have entertainment value around the people that are represented on iHeartRadio. Ninety seven percent of African-American listeners listen to a station, an urban radio station, that is owned by iHeart. And they do that. And iHeart makes money around creating dollars for advertisers who want to engage those listeners. So, how important is that to us? How important, as we’ve heard Nielson say over and over again, we have spending votes. It is not just the votes we do at the ballot box, it is a matter of how do we use those spending votes to make sure that we are available to create a movement that happens for us. And --

    WILLIAMS: So basically, you are saying, who are their advertisers? Who are the people who support iHeart? Who are the stations that we have been listening to and where we should pull back in effecting those things?

    RUNNER: Yes, absolutely. We do it and we think about it -- I hope everybody thinks about it as it relates to the Koch brothers, and who they are and what they do as it relates to our community. But really, how do we use our power as an African-American community in this country to make sure that we are doing the right things to get the things that benefit our community. 

  • Conservative Radio Host Michael Berry: "We All" Miss My Canceled Segment That Mocked Chicago Gun Violence Victims

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A week after ending a weekly segment that mocked victims of gun violence in Chicago, iHeartRadio’s Michael Berry said he hasn’t “had any racial conversations since I got in trouble, so maybe we’ll delve back into that” and added that he missed doing the segment.

    Berry previously hosted a weekly segment on The Michael Berry Show, which is syndicated in several major media markets and broadcast by iHeartRadio, in which he mocked victims of gun violence in Chicago. His commentary included making fun of victims’ names with racially charged comments and joking about where on their bodies the victims sustained the shooting injuries. Berry called the segment the “Chicago Weekend Crime Report” and the “Butcher Bill.”

    Controversy around the segment arose after a February 27 announcement in Talkers magazine said iHeartRadio would honor Berry with a “talk personality of the year” award at the March 5 iHeartRadio Music Awards.

    Following that announcement, Media Matters published a post documenting Berry’s history of mocking gun violence victims and using other extreme rhetoric, including his claim in 2010 that someone should blow up a mosque proposed for a site near ground zero in New York City.

    The Chicago Tribune and WGN reported on Berry’s comments, including his ridicule of the name of an innocent 14-year-old bystander gunned down in a drive-by shooting and his frequent call for listeners of his show to play “bingo” with victims’ gunshot injuries.

    The 2017 iHeartRadio Music Awards passed without any indication of whether Berry actually received the award. iHeartRadio has not discussed Berry publicly and has not confirmed whether he was honored. (On March 24, Media Matters and 20 civil rights and gun violence prevention groups sent a letter to iHeartMedia CEO Robert Pittman asking him to publicly state whether Berry received the award.)

    For his part, Berry announced on March 10 that he was canceling the segment and offered an apology, promising to “make better decisions” about the words he uses. Berry’s apology also included the self-serving explanation that he merely meant to “highlight” the “precious lives” being lost in Chicago with a feature “that was tinged in humor.” A review of Berry’s “Chicago Weekend Crime Report” indicates that instead, his segments were filled with callous ridicule.

    Berry set aside any contrition for the segment during his March 24 broadcast, telling callers, “We haven’t had any racial conversations since I got in trouble, so maybe we’ll delve back into that,” and stating that “we all” miss the segment.

    CALLER: You got to bring up chaos from New York City.

    BERRY: “Chaos from Harlem,” yes, “Chaos” needs to be back. We haven’t had any racial conversations since I got in trouble, so maybe we’ll delve back into that. Caller, you’re up.

    CALLER: Michael?

    BERRY: Yeah?

    CALLER: Yeah, I miss you in the “Chicago Crime Report.”

    BERRY: Yeah, well, we all do. We all do.

  • Activists Call On iHeartRadio To Break Its Silence On Racist Radio Host

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A coalition of 21 civil rights and gun violence prevention groups signed a letter expressing concern that iHeartRadio has not confirmed whether it gave a “talk personality of the year” award to a conservative radio host who regularly featured a racially charged segment dedicated to mocking victims of Chicago gun violence.

    For several years, conservative syndicated radio host Michael Berry hosted a “Butcher Bill” segment in which he ridiculed Chicago’s gun violence victims and smeared the Black Lives Matter movement. Berry also played “bingo” with the victims’ injuries and mockingly suggested that if “you don’t want to hear shots and feel pain” in Chicago -- referring to the common police blotter description of what happened to victims -- you should wear “earmuffs.” In a February 27 press release, Talkers magazine announced that Berry would receive an award for “best news/talk” personality of the year at the March 5 iHeartRadio Music Awards in Los Angeles.

    After receiving criticism for his segment, Berry announced that The Michael Berry Show would stop airing the weekly “Butcher Bill” segment, saying he has “to make better decisions.” But it is not clear whether he actually received the award, and iHeartRadio has not answered questions about the matter.

    Media Matters and 20 other civil rights and gun violence prevention groups are asking iHeartRadio to break its silence and publicly state whether it honored Berry. From the March 24 letter:

  • Conservative Syndicated Radio Host Ends Segment Mocking Chicago Gun Violence Victims

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Nationally syndicated conservative radio host Michael Berry announced that he will discontinue his weekly segment mocking victims of Chicago gun violence, and he apologized for the feature, saying he has “to make better decisions” about the words he uses.

    Until now, The Michael Berry Show, which is syndicated by iHeartRadio, has featured a “racially charged” “Butcher Bill” weekly segment that ridiculed the city’s gun violence victims and criticized the Black Lives Matter movement. Berry repeatedly claimed that “black people don’t believe black lives matter.”

    Berry’s decision to discontinue the segment follows controversy over iHeartRadio’s recent announcement that it would give Berry a “talk personality of the year” award. After the announcement of the award, Media Matters published a piece on March 1 highlighting some of the worst examples from Berry’s “Butcher Bill.”

    Amid the ensuing controversy, iHeartRadio refused to comment to Media Matters and news outlets covering the story to explain why he was being honored. The award was to be given during the March 5 iHeartRadio Music awards, but no indication has been made that Berry was actually honored at the ceremony, and iHeartRadio did not return multiple requests for comment asking whether Berry received the award. iHeartRadio has also not responded to requests for comment on Berry’s apology and discontinuation of the segment.

    During the March 10 evening edition of his show, Berry announced he would “discontinue” the segment. He initially defended the segment, with a self-serving explanation that claimed the purpose was to “highlight” the “precious lives” being lost in Chicago with a feature “that was tinged in humor.” Calling himself a “comedian wanna-be,” Berry said that “comedians make people laugh as a way to make people think.”

    While this explanation purported to show sympathy for victims of gun violence in Chicago, the actual segments he ran were full of heartless mockery. For example, in September 2015, Berry ridiculed 14-year-old Tyjuan Poindexter just days after he was murdered as the innocent bystander of a drive-by shooting. Mocking the youth’s name, Berry said, “Tyjuan Poindexter. Ha ha. Tyjuan Poindexter was standing outside with some friends when some people drove by and opened fire. Young Mister Poindexter was shot in the head and died at the scene. He won't have to live with that name anymore.”

    In 2017, Berry often played “bingo” with Chicago residents’ gun violence injuries and encouraged listeners to play along by guessing where victims were shot on their bodies. He also sarcastically suggested that the way to avoid “hear[ing] shots and fe[eling] pain” in Chicago is to wear “earmuffs.”

    Despite attempting to sanitize the content of his segment, Berry conceded on March 10 that he had received “valid criticism” and that those who had complained about the segment “deserve an apology”: 

    MICHAEL BERRY (HOST): Well, it came to our attention, most of you listening right now would never know what I’m talking about. We do a -- on our morning show, on Monday mornings, we do a segment called the Chicago Weekend Crime Update. And the genesis of that, several years ago, was to say, “Every week there are people, a dozen or more people being murdered and usually multiple dozens being wounded on the streets of Chicago and we’re arguing over guns when precious lives are being lost. Children, walking to school, being gunned down or in their own home. A mom walking her baby in a pram, and gets shot and killed in front of their own home.” So, in an effort to highlight that, we started a segment that was tinged in humor -- and that might seem weird. But comedians, and I’m a comedian wannabe, comedians make people laugh as a way to make people think. It’s why they’re very effective at stoking discussions. And through the course of that, some people said to me, and I read some comments that people had posted, that I was mocking crime victims. And my immediate reaction is, you’re stupid, you’re dumb, you’re criticizing me, I’m not going to listen to you. But I sat down with my wife, and we read through them, and I realized I could see where somebody would say that. I would come off -- you’re right. That is a valid criticism, and I have thought over that a lot in the last week. And that bothered me. It bothered me a lot. And we decided that we would discontinue that segment, as much as we think it's important to highlight the problems of crime. And I also wanted to apologize, because some people took the time to post to me that that bothered them and why. In very thoughtful comments, and they deserve an apology. And I have to make better decisions with the words I use.

    Berry has previously apologized for making disparaging comments about American Indians and for his suggestion that someone blow up a mosque, but these apologies did not temper his proclivity for using dehumanizing rhetoric

  • iHeartRadio Won’t Say Whether It Honored Conservative Radio Host Who Mocks Chicago Gun Violence Victims

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    iHeartRadio is refusing to say whether it honored conservative radio host Michael Berry -- who routinely mocks Chicago victims of gun violence -- at the 2017 iHeartRadio Music awards. The online radio broadcasting company previously announced that Berry would be named “talk personality of the year” at the March 5 award ceremony.

    Talkers, the radio industry’s trade publication, reported on February 27 that iHeartRadio was giving a “news/talk personality of the year” award to Berry, writing that the award “is a first” and that the “competition was open only to talk hosts who work for iHeartMedia stations.” The report quoted Berry claiming that he hosts “a show that dares to be funny.”

    The Talkers article originally included the line “The award will be given in Los Angeles on March 5 at the iHeartRadio Music Awards,” but that language was subsequently removed without explanation. During the February 23 broadcast of The Michael Berry Show, Berry talked about being chosen for the award, saying, “It’s the first time our company has done this -- they have a big awards ceremony next month.”

    On March 1, Media Matters published a piece documenting Berry’s regular ridicule of Chicago gun violence victims in a weekly “Butcher Bill” segment, which often includes playing “bingo” and other games with victims’ gunshot injuries. For example, during a February 20 broadcast, Berry said of a slain gun violence victim:  “Saturday, 4:25 a.m., po-po responding to a call of shots fired, found 36-year-old John Gonzalez with a gunshot wound to -- to his head. To his head, everybody. B4, his head.”

    The piece also mentioned that Berry frequently picks on teenage victims of gun violence in Chicago. After 14-year-old Tyjuan Poindexter was killed in a drive-by shooting, Berry joked that the teenager, who was an innocent bystander, “won't have to live with that name anymore.”

    Following the piece’s publication, Media Matters sent multiple requests for comment to iHeartRadio asking them to explain the rationale behind honoring Berry, but received no response. A March 2 Chicago Tribune article on Berry’s propensity to mock gun violence victims noted that “Berry and his producer did not respond to calls from the Chicago Tribune this week. Nor did bosses at Berry's Houston station, KTRH, nor did representatives of its parent company, iHeartMedia.” (The Tribune article references the deleted line from the Talkers report -- “Talker magazine also reported the award, which it said would be given to Berry in a televised ceremony Sunday in Los Angeles” -- indicating the line was removed after Media Matters’ piece was published.)

    Similarly, a March 2 WGN News broadcast reporting that Berry “makes fun of shooting victims with racially charged commentary” noted that iHeartRadio had not responded to a request for comment.

    On March 5, the iHeartRadio Music awards show was held in Los Angeles. The event was broadcast on TNT, TBS, and TruTv. With the event now concluded, it is unclear whether Berry was honored during the ceremony. A search of iQ media turned up no evidence that Berry was honored during the televised portions of the event, and on March 6, iHeartRadio published a “complete” list of winners from the event, which does not include Berry, instead listing the musicians who won awards, including Justin Timberlake, Adele, and Justin Bieber.

    Media Matters has again sent iHeartRadio multiple requests for comment, asking the company to confirm whether Berry received the award at the event as previously planned. iHeartRadio has not responded.

    It is important that leadership at iHeartRadio clarify whether they stand with the values represented by Berry’s show and believe that a host like him should be elevated by receiving an award alongside high-profile performers.

    If iHeartRadio decided to honor Berry in secret, that suggests the company is comfortable giving an award to someone who ridicules gun violence victims, but also doesn’t want to face any public backlash over the situation. If the award was rescinded, that is an important point too, and iHeartRadio should explain its rationale for not going forward with the honor.

    Additional reporting by Media Matters' Joe Strupp.

  • Why Reports About Rush Limbaugh's Contract Renewal Don't Mention The Price

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Rush Limbaugh’s radio business model has been cracked and broken for several years. News this week of his four-year contract extension does little to repair those fractures, but does raise the specter of his eventual departure from the AM dial. Because without a solid advertising and affiliate base, Limbaugh simply cannot flourish the way he once did.

    And what a difference eight years makes for the talker and the precarious state of his radio career.

    Back in 2008 when Limbaugh re-upped with his syndicated radio bosses, the details of the wildly generous deal were quickly trumpeted in the press. Headlines heralded the AM talker’s NBA-type, eight-year contract signed with Clear Channel, the conservative-friendly media behemoth with a soft spot for right-wing radio: $400 million! That included a 40 percent raise from his previous deal and a $100 million signing bonus.

    The larger 2008 context was clear: Limbaugh had established himself as a larger-than-life media and political kingpin and this was his victory lap. Limbaugh commanded the type of money and influence that few in the media and entertainment industry ever achieve. A radio ratings hero, Limbaugh was at the top of his game. Or so Clear Channel insisted.

    Compare all that 2008 contract triumph to this week’s minimalist roll-out announcing Limbaugh’s extension, which consisted of a single-page press release from his radio boss, iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel), and Limbaugh mentioning it on his program.

    Conspicuously absent this time around were any details about the size of the contract, or an acknowledgement that Limbaugh might have been forced to take a sizeable pay cut thanks to his diminished stature.

    On his Tuesday program, Limbaugh insisted he’s never wanted his earnings to be public knowledge and so he wasn’t going to discuss the details of the extension; “It was a sign of good manners.” But in a 2008 New York Times magazine profile, Limbaugh openly discussed the dollar figures behind his blockbuster deal. (“He estimated that it would bring in about $38 million a year. To sweeten the deal, he said he was also getting a nine-figure signing bonus.”) He also talked about how much his private jet cost ($54 million).

    Today Limbaugh announced -- while obscuring the details of his new deal -- that estimating his annual salary is “kind of a joke” because he doesn’t “earn a salary.” He continued, “I have to perform every quarter, every six months, every year. There's no salary involved here, so throwing out numbers with this is kind of misleading in the first place.”

    Put it this way, if Limbaugh got a raise or another big payday this week, you can be sure the figures would’ve at least been leaked to the press.

    “I hear the new deal has a much lower base salary and a much bigger revenue share component,” Darryl Parks tells Media Matters. Parks is a former talk radio host, programmer, and self-identified Republican who writes about the radio industry at DarrylParksBlog. “With the revenue share, the company is lowering its financial risk in signing him.”

    And let’s be clear, struggling iHeartMedia is in no position to take any “financial risk” on Limbaugh, or anybody else. Instead, the once-dominant radio behemoth is saddled with $20 billion in debt, thanks to a misguided leveraged takeover engineered by Bain Capital in 2008.

    Consider this: 

    Clear Channel stock value, April 2007: $39.

    iHeartMedia stock price, July 2011: Approximately $8

    iHeartMedia stock price at close of Tuesday: $1.30.

    But even with a sturdy corporate parent, it’s likely Limbaugh was facing a pay cut thanks to the historic advertising exodus that has wreaked havoc on his business model. The widespread Madison Ave. rejection was sparked by in part by the talker’s days-long sexist meltdown over Sandra Fluke in 2012. With advertisers staying away, and ratings down, station owners were suddenly less interested in carrying his expensive program.

    In key major markets such as Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and Indianapolis, Limbaugh has been demoted on the AM dial, onto often struggling, underperforming stations -- the type of affiliates that Limbaugh was rarely associated with during his glory days as the king of talk radio.

    Parks last week looked at Limbaugh’s most recent ratings in Boston:

    Limbaugh’s show has been banished to WKOX-AM, a iHeart Radio owned station, and in June ’16 that station ranked #23 with a 0.2.  That’s just two tenths of a point away from a DNS or “did not show,” meaning not having enough listeners to show in the ratings.

    Limbaugh’s show airs on a station in Boston that basically has no listeners.

    The Buffalo News recently looked at Limbaugh’s local ratings and found that for the months of January, February and March this year, his audience declined “14 percent in age 12 plus, 16 percent in the age 25-54 category and 5 percent in the older age 35-64 demographic.” And that was during the height of the political primary season.

    The paper also reported that the Buffalo station, like so many other Limbaugh affiliates, was having trouble selling ads on the program.

    As Parks wrote on his blog last week, “Years ago, Rush Limbaugh could make or break a news/talk station.  But, that was many years ago and is no longer the case.”