Gallup Data, Conservative Book Sales, Ratings Underscore Talk Radio's Potential
When Will Some Radio Execs Finally Grasp Talk's Power?
Even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, why are some radio executives still fighting conservative talk radio's success?
Returning from a break today, Rush Limbaugh made a crack about industry holdouts, twenty years after his show reshaped broadcasting:
RUSH: The views expressed by the host on this program documented to be almost always right 99.1% of the time. However, the views expressed by the host on this program may not represent the staff nor management of this station. Even after 20 years, there are holdouts. But soon we'll have them all in the fold.
Though simply meant as a joke unrelated to the topic at hand, it couldn't have been more relevant and timely. Somehow, despite years of solid ratings for conservative talk, it faces constant pressure from within by those who wish to water it down:
In New York City, for example, ailing Citadel Communications has undermined WABC's blockbuster noon-9pm programming bloc featuring Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin with a weak morning lineup including fading establishment suck-up Don Imus and sleazy MSNBC squishmeister Joe Scarborough.
The latter two were hired seemingly because Citadel's notoriously left-leaning management agrees with their views, not due to any apparent audience demand. While Imus devotes airtime to fluffy segments with John Kerry and other liberal politicians, Scarborough has used the publicity tour for his new book to bash conservatives at every opportunity:
At Washington's WMAL, Scarborough has also been forced upon listeners, despite a similar lack of listener interest. Meanwhile, at another DC station, Imus has fared so poorly that musical interludes have replaced some portions of his program. From DCRTV, an industry site, on April 28:
A DCRTVer tells us that this morning on "Imus," Senator John Kerry, during his guest spot, told Don Imus that his show in DC via WJZW gets interrupted for "local and stuff." A local radio listener tells DCRTV: "I think those were the senator's words. I expected him to say 'for music,' but he seemed more upset by the ABC/Citadel news breaks. He asked Imus to look into that so-called problem, and Imus said he wasn't aware of it." Several months ago, WJZW started mixing-in oldies tunes with Imus talk segments, rather than carrying the NYC-based Imus's talk uninterrupted, in hopes of improving the station's poor morning drive ratings.....
And in Boston, WTKK-FM management has repeatedly and actively engaged in a campaign of on-air host censorship, culminating in the temporary removal of afternoon drive talker Jay Severin after he made comments considered derogatory toward Mexican-Americans. Though generally known as a libertarian rather than conservative, Severin has been especially critical of Obama, which could have been one of the triggers for his recent public scolding.
WTKK's lineup, which includes Imus, is increasingly non-conservative in nature. Despite its big budget for local talk, owner Greater Media's programming malpractice has resulted in disappointingly low overall ratings.
We don't need to make the case for conservative talk's large audience, that is commonly understood. Where we can add fuel to the fire, however, is with new data that underscores its huge potential listenership base:
A new Gallup poll reveals that conservatives are by far the single largest ideological group in America, making up 40% of respondents, while self-described liberals represent just 21% of the population. The new survey, which has generated a great deal of attention today, brought this response from Limbaugh:
RUSH: This is why the left is afraid of Sarah Palin, folks, this is why they're trying to destroy her. Nobody else on the Republican side excites the Republican base like she does. I don't mean to insult anybody out there. Some great people on our side, but this ought to have specific impact here on our conservative media which is wandering off the reservation continually saying we gotta get rid of Reagan.
If I were Dick Cheney I would think about suing Leon Panetta for defamation. Panetta says it's almost as if former Vice President Cheney would like to see another attack on the United States. That's patently absurd.
RUSH: You know, back to that poll, the Gallup poll. Conservatives are the single largest ideological group in the country. Liberals are 21% and independents are 35%. If I were running the Republican Party, you know what it would tell me? And if I were in the conservative media, and if I really wanted to win the next series of elections, as Randall Hoven here of the American Thinker says, "Here is how you do it: get 40% of the vote by being genuinely conservative, without apology," and that's where you get your (quote, unquote) "Reagan Democrats." Just be pedal-to-the-metal conservative and don't apologize for it. "Then go after one third of the 'moderates' (thus getting another 12% of the vote, for a 52% majority) by pushing responsibility, competence and integrity.
"Heck, maybe you'll get half the moderates, for a total of 58%, almost what Reagan got in 1984." Forty percent of the people of this country identify themselves as "conservative." Twenty-one percent identify themselves as liberal. This is why I closed the program on Friday telling you I still have faith.
I still have faith in the people of this country -- and if you look at the campaign of 2008, the 40% of the American people who were conservative had nobody to vote for! And if the Republican Party keeps up, they're not going to offer anybody to vote for. And that's why the left is so scared to death of Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin excites this 40% of Americans that are conservatives. Of course, the blue-blood, country club, Rockefeller Republicans and the media and the Democrats make fun of her and say that she's a dunce and she doesn't have any experience, she's uninformed and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But all you have to do...
While Mark Levin's smash-hit conservative manifesto continues at number one more than two months after its release, Scarborough's right-bashing book is sputtering just days out of the gate, barely able to hold the top 100 at Amazon.
Which approach resonates with the public? The results speak for themselves.
As conservative viewpoints fuel book sales, polls, radio and TV ratings, one would imagine radio executives would be eager to grab their share of this loyal constituency. But some corporate suits just can't get past their own personal ideology, leading to a self-destructive urge to fight successful programming from within.
Perhaps, as Rush joked today, they will finally get it. But will that epiphany come too late to save their respective companies and careers?
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