Talk-radio often sets the table for the world of TV news, and no one has set more tables than Rush Limbaugh. Now, Politico’s Dylan Byers reports that Limbaugh is threatening to leave Cumulus Media when his contract expires at the end of the year, potentially taking his services to a competing syndicator.
According to the source, Limbaugh is considering the move because Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey has blamed the company’s advertising losses on Limbaugh’s controversial remarks about Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student. In Feb. 2012, Limbaugh referred to Fluke as “a slut” because she had called on congress to mandate insurance coverage of birth control. The subsequent controversy over those remarks resulted in a significant advertising boycott. The true extent of Limbaugh’s effect on Cumulus’s advertising revenue is not known.
It is likely a very public negotiating tactic by Limbaugh. If he truly was hurt by Cumulus’ statements, he would just leave when his contract expires, but by threatening to leave publicly, he is sending a message: “Pay up, or I go.”
Even if he does leave, he probably wouldn’t go far. There are a slew of syndicators that would gobble his program up for any price. There is also the Howard Stern approach of going to satellite radio or launching a new service based on his program. One thing is clear: Limbaugh will be getting a fat new contract by the end of the year.