I do not listen to the Rush Limbaugh Show. That is not to say that I think he of the golden microphone is not worth listening to. On the contrary, I think that Rush might be the most important voice in America. It just happens that talk radio isn’t my personal cup of tea.
Still, when I do take in the rare hour or two, I have always found Rush to be a profoundly insightful thinker. Far from the partisan blowhard the left portrays him to be, Rush is, from my limited listenings, a true philosopher, perhaps a bit more crude than his toga-wearing, boy-loving predecessors, but one of them just the same. His philosophy is American Conservatism, and he champions it far above party. In fact, I suspect it is the soft-left members of the GOP that fear him most, since the DNC cannot by their very nature be held to the standards of limited government and natural-liberty over enforced-equality he champions in the first place.
Rush Limbaugh is hated, in my opinion, because he provides an inoculation in the minds of everyone who hears him against the permeating cultural narrative of relativism, peace through acquiescence, racial guilt, political correctness, redistributive change, and the soft-tyranny of an intrusive government bent on controlling the poor rubes and savages over whom it rules quite unconstitutionally.
All of this hatred is on full display in a new piece, published recently at the Huffington Post, written by Radio World contributor Bill Mann called, Rush Limbaugh’s Dirty Little Secret of Radio “Success”. Like many critics of Limbaugh, and conservative talk radio in general, Mr. Mann’s chief complaint in the article seems to be that Rush is successful. He bemoans the fact that Rush can always be heard in “rural areas,” which Mann generously identifies as everything existing “between cities.” According to Mr. Mann, this permeation of the EIB network to even so mean an environment as a suburb is “obviously” not due to audiences there finding any commonality with the views of Mr. Limbaugh (though Mr. Mann provides no support for this claim). It is also not, as many on the right would claim, due to anything so pedestrian as the free market. The truth of Mr. Limbaugh’s success is in fact, according to Mann, a little known and apparently nefarious system called the barter deal.
Here’s how a barter deal works, according to Mann:
To launch the show, Limbaugh’s syndicator, Premiere Radio Network… gave Limbaugh’s three hours away — that’s right, no cash — to local radio stations, mostly in medium and smaller markets, back in the early 1990’s…
In exchange, Premiere took for itself much of the local station’s available advertising time (roughly 15 minutes an hour) and packed the show with national ads it had already pre-sold.
Now, it’s worth mentioning that I don’t even know if this information is true, though I have no reason to doubt Mr. Mann’s statement. I don’t have the slightest idea how radio is sold or marketed. I did jock for a few years at a country music station in Lubbock, Texas in college (Esoteric Radio Theatre with Jeremy Danial… You can imagine how successful it was…), but I have no idea how the economies of talk radio function. (In the interest of disclosure, I do have a good friend who syndicates many of the top talk radio hosts in the country, but other than the fact that he is often generous when it comes time to pay for a meal, I have no real clue how his business works.) I do know one thing though: THIS SOUNDS LIKE A BRILLIANT IDEA.
Think about it, if you believe you have a product with a high value, and you believe that product can attract and sustain a broad national audience, why wouldn’t you trade the show itself for advertising time in markets that might not be able to afford the licensing rights upfront? It is basically win, win. You get to expand your income potential and your sphere of influence by adding gross listeners. The local stations get to increase their ratings by hosting a well-hyped, news worthy, national show, which increases their ability to monetize the advertising time they retain. I’m sure local radio hosts suffer, but that is true with competition of all kinds. Indeed, if the local station drummed up the money to license Rush’s show, the result for the local host would likely be the same.
In truth, if you take out a few of the negative adjectives, I think Mr. Mann’s article would suddenly read like a glowing, how-to, self-help for businessmen of all stripes. Instead of Rush Limbaugh’s Dirty Little Secret of Radio “Success,” you could just call it Rush Limbaugh’s Secret of Radio Success!, and sell a million copies to all sorts of radio entrepreneurs. In fact, the syndicators of liberal talk radio would do well to emulate this model, if they haven’t already. It makes great business sense.
Of course, that is where the real problem with Mr. Mann’s position lies. Mr. Mann’s main objection to the barter system seems to be simply that he hates Rush Limbaugh. He finds it immoral that Rush would use competitive advantage because it works. How dare you use something that works! All success and profit is patently evil, unless it is strictly controlled by the government or advantages people Mr. Mann doesn’t hate. You see, the market still wins in the end. Rush’s success in large markets has given him the opportunity to take a risk in the smaller ones. He can give his show away in trade for something that might prove more valuable in the end because he has built enough success to sustain him if the gamble fails. At the end of the day, though, an audience still has to respond to the show or the new ads will be worthless, as will the local stations remaining stock. So, despite the protestations of Mr. Mann to the contrary, Rush Limbaugh is on the air nationwide expressly because his views are mainstream, or at a minimum, substantial enough to be valuable in the market (the fact that conservative candidates continue to win nationwide year after year speaks more to the true mainstreamness of Rush’s underlying philosophy…). Certainly any other radio personality of any other political stripe could employ the same technique, the question that remains is will liberal radio shows that Mr. Mann approves of succeed in growing audiences capable of sustaining the deal with local stations.
The fact that so many on the left seem bent upon ensuring the government grant them equality instead of competing for it seems to be proof that they will not. Perhaps it is Mr. Mann’s whose views are outside of the mainstream.