The Horse Sense Blog compares the nonsense in today's news with good ol' fashioned horse sense

“…I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve.… It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.” - Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775

"The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it." - George Orwell

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Rush vs. Cumulus: Where's Talk Radio Going?

Here's the Nonsense:  Cumulus has problems at WABC that are clearly the fault of Rush Limbaugh. 

Here's the Horse Sense:  As a businessman I have to say that this smells of something far different than Cumulus is claiming.  The future of talk radio is changing and we need to see through the smokescreen to recognize where it's going.

It seems that the number one talker, Rush Limbaugh, has become the whipping post of Cumulus Media as he's blamed for a large portion of the lackluster performance of some of their radio stations.  Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey has blamed loss of sponsors and other revenue problems on the comments made by Limbaugh about Sandra Fluke last year.  But Rush's side says that advertisers who left his show are losing business.  Who's right and where is talk radio headed?

The truth is a scrambled mess, with the actual details only being known by those closely involved.  However, a little business acumen tells me that the chances are greater that Rush is right and Cumulus sees him as an easy scapegoat for bigger problems they have.  After all, Rush is the number one host in the world.  Period.  Even if his support were to dwindle a bit, and there's no evidence that he's losing his lead among talk shows, the fact is that number one is still number one.  So, if you lose the number one show, as rumor has it 40 Cumulus owned stations might do if Rush is tired of being blamed and decides to take his show elsewhere when his contract ends at the end of the year, there is nothing you can replace it with to equal or exceed the numbers it generates.

Put another way, why would you give up the top revenue generating program for lower rated programming when you know that means that your advertising revenue will never equal what you can make on the number one show?  As a businessman it makes no sense unless either:  1.)  You're can't understand basic economics that says a bigger paycheck is actually more money;  or 2.)  You are under some kind of external pressure to make the change regardless of the cost to your business.

Given that Cumulus invested huge sums of money to make changes in their business in a gamble to come out stronger, it doesn't say much when they would make their number one listener draw the target of excuses for their problems.  Rather, it would make sense that they would support their contractor (Rush) and reflect on his audience size and continue to carry his show.  Or, at least they would defend his right to free speech based on the ever-dwindling strength of the First Amendment.  If they really disagreed so badly with him that they couldn't live with themselves and the income they get from his show wasn't an issue, then they would have already found a way to cancel the contract with him.

No, as a businessman I will say that this smells of a company struggling financially and to justify things to their stockholders they are using what happened to Rush as a scapegoat mechanism to try to get out from under the pressure being put on by stockholders about lackluster performance of their company.  After all, nowhere is it more true than in the media and entertainment that any publicity is good publicity.  Why Cumulus didn't use the situation to their own advantage should raise many an eyebrow.

Instead of embracing the controversy as an opportunity, Cumulus chose to rush into an agreement to have Mike Huckabee start a show in Rush's time slot.  While Huckabee is well-liked and his show is certainly a draw, it is just like the competition for Rush.  It isn't near Rush's results.  Cumulus seems to have thought that Huckabee would be their answer to Rush.  

It will take a lot more than one orchestrated attack by the left taking advantage of a misstatement to unseat Rush Limbaugh from prominence.  Rush will continue to rule until he either chooses to leave or the government chooses to force him off the air… which is very possible for Rush and all talk radio with a conservative perspective given the mindset in our government today.

The changes in talk radio are happening at a rapid pace.  Many stations have changed formats.  Many shows are trying to change to "broaden" their audience size and appeal.  It's not because they think the old shows aren't strong competitors in the marketplace.  It's because they're scared of this government.  

Many have changed to sports format or something else.  They are afraid that the future is not so rosy for conservative talk radio shows because the left has declared war on the Constitution and the very freedoms that allow them to express their opinions.  Of course that is because the left can't effectively counter the arguments made by the conservatives.  The left cannot articulate an argument about issues with any basis in reasoned logic or facts.  Just try watching MSNBC for an evening and try to find any reason or logic in their grossly biased and skewed programming.

This has many in American business scared, including the broadcast industry.  The future of America is in a very precarious place and when you have a president who spoke to the graduating class of Ohio State University this weekend and told them to reject the notion of government tyranny, there is truly something to be concerned about.  The great leaders of our past stood against tyranny by reminding us citizens that we are not to trust government.  That is not something we hear these days.  

What we hear these days is companies under pressure from stockholders to produce results and, like the president of our own country does with reckless abandon, they look to blame others instead of accepting responsibility and seeking solutions.

That is the sign of downfall in business and it is the sign of downfall in our own government.