According to a memo published by the industry website Radio-Info.com at least 98 advertisers -- including big names like Ford, GM and McDonald's -- have indicated they want to avoid "environments likely to stir negative sentiments."
"To all Traffic Managers: The information below applies to your Premiere Radio Networks commercial inventory. More than 350 different advertisers sponsor the programs and services provided to your station on a barter basis. Like advertisers that purchase commercials on your radio station from your sales staff, our sponsors communicate specific rotations, daypart preferences and advertising environments they prefer…
They’ve specifically asked that you schedule their commercials in dayparts or programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity). Those are defined as environments likely to stir negative sentiment from a very small percentage of the listening public."
Sponsors began abandoning Limbaugh's show en masse after he made offensive comments about Sandra Fluke, calling the law student a "slut" for her testimony in support of President Barack Obama's birth control mandate, and suggesting she should make sex tapes if she wants birth control covered by insurance.
By last count, at least 50 sponsors have pulled their ads from Limbaugh's show, including AOL, The Huffington Post's parent company.
On Thursday, Limbaugh's program was practically devoid of paid advertisements, according to reports.. Of the 86 spots that aired, 77 were "free public service announcements donated by the Ad Council." Seven ads were from companies "in the process of pulling their spots."
Limbaugh's website features in-house advertising for tshirts and baseball caps.
As advertisers were contacted by angry listeners, many said there "were no ads on Limbaugh's show." Upon further investigation, some found that the advertising packages they had purchased did, in fact, include a few spots there, and they made arrangements to have them removed. This was not necessarily because they agreed or disagreed with Rush's statements, but because they want to avoid controversy.
Several talk show hosts have epressed concern that an all out boycott would hurt them as well. Stephanie Miller (6a-9a KPTK) commented, "If a listener is unhappy, by all means they should contact a sponsor and complain about their choice to advertise on a particular show. But to actually boycott the product hurts all of us, even if we had nothing to do with the controversy." RR