Excessive advertising killing conservative radio |
Featured Commentary

Excessive advertising killing conservative radio

Conservative talk radio is hurting. Liberals are gleefully circling the wagons, celebrating its imminent demise, even as conservative talk radio remains far more popular than liberal talk radio.

Liberals think they know the reason for the decline: they believe that conservatism is on the decline and that conservatives are so dispirited with the nation’s leftward drift that they’ve tuned out. Though there’s a smidgen of truth to that, it isn’t the answer. The real culprit might make liberals even happier; it will fuel the class envy they thrive upon.

Conservative talk radio is in peril because of conservative greed. There’s simply too much advertising on conservative talk radio. Anytime I tune in, I land on a litany of commercials. Yes, you need advertising to pay the bill but this is unlistenable.

Consider one of the top shows in the nation in the 3-6 p.m. slot, which I’ll leave nameless. I used to listen daily. Now, I occasionally check in around 5:08, when the host finally starts the hour. He provides about 14 minutes of content before going to a long break that doesn’t bring him back until about 5:27. Then he leaves for another marathon of advertisements (and some news) that doesn’t end until around 5:37. The cycle repeats through the show’s end.

There can’t be more than 33 minutes of actual program per hour. Why would anyone listen to this?

I recall a conversation a few years back with the late Fred Honsberger. I hadn’t done his talk show on KDKA in a while. I asked how it was going. “They fill the show with junk!” he shouted at me. “People tune out! Then I get blamed for the lack of listeners!”

Why so much junk? To pay the bills, of course. But more specifically, to pay the gigantic, unsustainable fees these shows command.

Alas, this hits home for conservatives in the Pittsburgh marketplace. The great mega-talker in Pittsburgh, 104.7 FM, WPGB, suddenly switched formats. I knew 104.7 extremely well, having been a guest on practically every show, even guest-hosting entrepreneur Glen Meakem’s show (which buys time and isn’t overloaded with ads).

I was tipped off to WPGB’s approaching death by an insider who shared this telling information: “Clear Channel is eliminating the talk format on WPGB and flipping it to a country music format. Limbaugh and Hannity are being moved over to WJAS 1320 AM. It is only a 7,000 watt signal, far inferior to WPGB’s 50,000 watt signal. … I spoke with a media executive who is familiar with Limbaugh’s contract. In a market the size of Pittsburgh, Limbaugh receives a monthly talent fee of $35,000.”

Wow. That’s over $400,000 per year just for Rush Limbaugh, at one station. And that’s merely Rush. I won’t begrudge him and other hosts their added fortunes but how do their loyal stations find that money?

Answer: advertising, advertising and advertising. In short, by advertising so much that listeners can’t stand it anymore.

And when that happens, the lights go out.

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science at Grove City College. His latest book is “11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.