California's KOWL has dropped Rush Limbaugh's radio show from its lineup. Describing the station as “one of the original Rush Limbaugh affiliates,” the announcement release emphasized that the decision was based exclusively on “economic reasons,” citing Limbaugh's “toxic brand.”
The release elaborated on the economic reasons: “And now the free market has spoken. Rush has repelled local, regional, and national advertisers from KOWL costing the stations [sic] thousands of dollars in advertisers.” It went on to state that “advertisers would rather just avoid the whole station then [sic] take the risk of being associated with Rush's increasingly toxic brand.”
The commercial viability of Limbaugh's show has suffered since 2012 following Limbaugh's prolonged attack on then-law student Sandra Fluke. That attack and resulting firestorm led advertisers to recognize that Limbaugh's volatility and brand were bad for business. Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported on the industry-wide damage Limbaugh is causing. Limbaugh's toxicity is so severe that it has cost radio stations millions of dollars in lost ad revenue and contributed to dramatic reductions in advertising rates for talk radio as a whole.
KOWL Station Manager Steve Harness offered some behind-the-scenes insight and touched on the additional problem of Limbaugh's syndicator fees (which at this point adds injury to injury by having radio stations that are losing money due to Limbaugh also pay him for the disservice of losing them money), explaining in the statement:
“I spent a lot of time negotiating directly with Limbaugh's syndicator. I told them that we didn't want to lose his show, but that we couldn't pay him a fee in addition to him losing us money repelling advertisers and they refused to drop the monthly free. Ironically, they lost the fee anyway and a long-time affiliate.”
Indeed. From the initial days after the Fluke controversy, Limbaugh and the team around him have shown little regard for the damage to the industry Limbaugh caused. In the first few days, Limbaugh resisted apologizing, which further inflamed the controversy -- eventually only apologizing for two but remaining steadfast in refusing to apologize for the other 44 personal attacks he had lobbed. Subsequently, he continued to engage in the same kinds of indecency and vitriol that ignited the controversy in the first place. This only served to emphasize Limbaugh's volatility and calcify the recognition that Limbaugh is bad for business.
Advertisers continue to leave and stay away thanks to a dedicated group of independent organizers in the Flush Rush and #StopRush communities. Their participation matters and is having a big effect.