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The Divorce of WIBC – Indianapolis and Rush Limbaugh

April 16, 2015
WIBC - Indianapolis will stop airing The Rush Limbaugh Show after July 3, 2015

WIBC – Indianapolis will stop airing The Rush Limbaugh Show after July 3, 2015

The only thing constant in the business of radio is change. Ownership, management, staff, product, branding, etc. – these items are subject to change based upon numerous factors, mostly ratings and advertising revenue. This missive is not to explain, in intricate detail, the “hows and whys” of major changes in broadcasting. If you, fine reader, would like to know the intricacies, contact me and I’ll let you know my fee for such information.

Earlier this week, the management of Indianapolis news/talk radio station WIBC announced that the station will, no longer, air The Rush Limbaugh Show following the program’s July 3rd broadcast. While this may be a shock to many, it’s a scenario that has been brewing for over a year and, for some radio vets such as myself, is a dynamic that has been discussed for, at least, five years.

Sure, the cigar aficionado radio titan has been under fire for comments made over the past couple of years and advertising revenue has dipped, locally and nationally. Following vociferous boycotts of the program, including the social media effort #StopRush, there are national (and some local) advertisers who refuse to allow their commercials to air during El Rushbo’s program. Anti-Limbaugh groups are claiming victory as put forth by liberal websites like the Daily Kos and, if it makes them happy to live in their fantasy world, more power to them.

Allow me to shatter their world with inconvenient truths:

The refusal of advertisers to allow radio stations to air their commercials during Limbaugh’s show isn’t anything new. This has happened to Don Imus, Howard Stern and others throughout the history of commercial broadcasting.

Rush Limbaugh’s listenership, while popular in many demographics, skews older than most radio shows. On the local radio market level, the key demographic for national advertising is “P 25-54”, which means “all persons aged 25-54”. National advertising agencies see the 25-54 age demographic as the best “bang for their buck” when placing ad buys with local radio. I’m not referring to 90% of the big-name advertising one hears on their local station (Lowe’s, Walgreen’s, etc.) as those commercials (barters) are aired under contractual obligations for services provided to the station or for syndicated programming airing. But, I digress.

In 2015, unlike 20 years ago and earlier, there are numerous ways for a person to get their entertainment and information. Gone are the days of having to rely, solely, on radio, television, newspapers and magazines. The advent of the internet and evolving technology have taken the onus off traditional platforms. Newspapers and magazines were the first to be affected. Radio and television are feeling the crunch more and more every day – mostly from the under-40 crowd.

Speaking, specifically, of radio, lower advertising revenues and increasing technologies have forced staffs to be pared, remaining personnel to take on far more responsibility than in past days and relying on more syndicated/national programming, especially in non-music formats. No matter how well-staffed a radio station is, the on-air product is what people listen to, or tune out if it’s not something they desire.

How does all this apply to WIBC and Rush Limbaugh?

For WIBC to continue as a successful property for Emmis, it’s apparent that management has decided to re-tool their early afternoon programming to attract a younger audience and, by extension, more advertising opportunities. It has been announced that Dana Loesch’s show, which airs from 1-4PM ET but is not broadcast live on WIBC, will do so in early July. Ms. Loesch’s show, while conservative-talk as is Limbaugh’s, is fresher and includes topicality that is non-political. The show dynamic is hipper, younger-sounding, highly entertaining and should attract more listeners from the younger half of that all-important 25-54 demographic.

There will be angry Limbaugh fans in Indianapolis and ecstatic Limbaugh haters around the country. For Jeff Smulyan, the founder/CEO of Emmis Communications, Charlie Morgan, Emmis/Indianapolis’ market manager and everyone else involved in the decision, the process is business, not personal. It is evolution, not cowardice. It is pragmatism, not politics. It is realism, not rhetoric. For anyone to assert anything else is proof that they know nothing about radio.

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