What media’s missing in Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity story

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Rumors that Cumulus, a radio company that owns hundreds of stations across the country, is “dumping” Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity popped up in Politico again today. These rumors are not new, and they are not really news when you dig into the radio business a little bit – which most reporters covering this story failed to do.

Limbaugh and Hannity have contracts with a company called Premiere Radio Networks.  Premiere syndicates many shows, in many formats, to any station that wants to air them.  That company is a subsidiary of a company called Clear Channel Media and Entertainment.  Clear Channel, like Cumulus, owns hundreds of radio stations across the country.

Cumulus has a syndication arm of its own, Cumulus Media Networks.  They have a show called The Mike Huckabee Show (yes, the former Arkansas governor and Presidential candidate) that airs from noon to 3pm Eastern, the same time as Limbaugh.  They have a cadre of other shows that air at the same time as Hannity.

It would make perfect business sense to me that if you believe in a show enough to pay the host of that show a lot of money, you would prefer to have that show on your own station instead of the competition’s station.  That’s what is going on here.  Cumulus is going to let Limbaugh and Hannity go so they can play their own shows on their own stations.  Clear Channel is going to add Limbaugh and Hannity to their own stations. It’s really a logical business decision, but many of the people covering it today made it sound like some ideological decision by Cumulus.  It’s not.

Full disclosure: I have worked for both companies in the past.  The company I work for, Hubbard Broadcasting, owns stations in markets in which both companies also own stations.  I am periodically a guest host and guest on The John Batchelor Show, syndicated by Cumulus.  No company has ever offered to syndicate a show featuring me; I would accept if asked.