Dittoheads, don’t rush to panic: Limbaugh, Hannity safe on Maine airwaves despite high-level radio industry spat

Posted July 30, 2013, at 5:31 a.m.
Last modified July 30, 2013, at 6:19 a.m.
Rush Limbaugh
Nicolas Shayko |
Rush Limbaugh

AUGUSTA, Maine — Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, two of the most well-known conservative talk radio pundits in the country, are once again the topic of speculation about whether they’ll be pulled off the air over contract disputes, but Maine radio executives said they don’t expect that to happen here.

Politico.com used an unnamed radio industry source to report that Cumulus Media is planning to drop both Limbaugh and Hannity from its stations by the end of the year. The move would reportedly affect more than 40 Cumulus channels in major markets — but Maine isn’t one of them, according to two Maine radio insiders.

Cary Pahigian, president and general manager of Portland Radio Group, said he isn’t aware of anywhere in New England where the Cumulus shakeup will take Limbaugh or Hannity off the air. Portland Radio Group owns WGAN, which broadcasts both talk shows.

“This is very much a national story but locally here in Maine, I don’t think there will be an effect,” said Pahigian. “It’s more of an inside-the-radio-business kind of thing.”

The reason, according to Pahigian, is that the handful of Maine stations that broadcast Limbaugh and Hannity purchase the rights to air their shows directly from Premiere Radio Networks, which syndicate those programs and many others. If Cumulus were to drop the pundits, said Pahigian, the most immediate effect would be on Cumulus-owned stations that have a talk radio format.

Suzanne Goucher, president and CEO of the Maine Association of Broadcasters, agreed.

“I think it’s not likely to affect Maine,” said Goucher in an emailed response to questions from the Bangor Daily News. “The only radio stations Cumulus owns here are the Portland stations (WBLM, WCYY, WHOM, WJBQ), all of which have music formats.”

Pahigian said even in larger markets, anything Cumulus does is unlikely to take Limbaugh and Hannity off the air for long. With their millions of listeners nationwide, they are two of the most profitable radio personalities and their shows would likely be picked up quickly by other stations.

“The markets where this really comes into play are New York and Chicago,” he said. “It’s kind of a non-story for Maine.”

Blaine Richardson, a well-known conservative in Maine who is launching a run for Maine’s 2nd U.S. House District, said he hopes Limbaugh in particular remains on the air because he is a “voice for conservatism.”

“Rush pretty much speaks for Reagan conservatism, which is a component of the Republican Party,” said Richardson. “He has quite a broad listener base here in the state of Maine. What I respect about his program is that when you take out the entertainment part of it, he never lies and he never fools around with the facts and he uses the facts to promote his political agenda. You know when you’re listening to it that you’re getting the straight scoop.”

Dylan Byers, a Politico blogger who writes about the media, wrote that a source close to Limbaugh told him in May that Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey was considering dropping Limbaugh because of a $2.4 million first-quarter decline in advertising revenue supposedly attributed to Limbaugh’s remarks about Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student whom he called a “slut.”

On his radio show Monday, Limbaugh reassured listeners — many of whom call themselves “dittoheads” because they agree so often with Limbaugh’s on-air opinions — that they still would be able to hear him, regardless of the outcome of a “public business negotiation.”

“Someday I am looking forward to being able to detail all of this for you, but suffice to say, nothing is going to happen that you will notice. Nothing is going to change,” Limbaugh said during Monday’s program.

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