One of the key angles to the recent controversy surrounding Rush Limbaugh has to do with advertisers: at last count, 51 sponsors of the Republican's show have pulled their support, leading to a "dead air" problem in at least one major market.
As it turns out, though, it's not just Limbaugh. The larger set of circumstances -- the public backlash to the host's misogyny, social-media activism, advertisers' reluctance to take sides in a culture war -- has affected a broader group of far-right hosts in an unexpected way.
Premiere Networks is circulating a list of 98 advertisers who want to avoid "environments likely to stir negative sentiments." The list includes carmakers (Ford, GM, Toyota), insurance companies (Allstate, Geico, Prudential, State Farm) and restaurants (McDonald's, Subway).
Premiere Radio syndicates Limbaugh's show, but the network has heard from these dozens of high-profile advertisers -- which, collectively, are worth millions of dollars in ad revenue -- each of whom want to avoid sponsorship of content that may be "deemed to be offensive or controversial." Among the other hosts included on the list are Mark Levin, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity.
It's brought the industry to an unexpected point: Limbaugh has become so toxic, major advertisers want to avoid him and other shock jocks who might be as offensive as he is. As John Avlon noted over the weekend, "Rush Limbaugh made the right-wing talk-radio industry, and he just might break it."
[T]he irony is that the same market forces that right-wing talk-radio hosts champion are helping to seal their fate. Advertisers are abandoning the shows because they no longer want to be associated with the hyperpartisan -- and occasionally hateful -- rhetoric. They are finally drawing a line because consumers are starting to take a stand. [...]When big money starts shifting, it is a sign of a deeper tide that is difficult to undo, even if you are an industry icon like Rush Limbaugh. It is a sign that the times are changing.
The free market at work.