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Huffington Post radio reviewer Bill Mann made what he thought was a startling revelation about Rush Limbaugh today:

The real story is not generally well-known. The only reason I know is through my covering the business of radio for years for several major daily newspapers and also, for industry trade magazines like Radio World.

It’s because — ready for this? — Rush’s show was, and presumably still is, given away for free to many local radio stations.

This shocker is because of a little-known practice in broadcast syndication called a “barter deal.” (Barter deals were briefly mentioned in Michael Wolff’s first-rate recent piece on Rush in Vanity Fair).

Here’s how a barter deal works: To launch the show, Limbaugh’s syndicator, Premiere Radio Networks — the same folks who syndicate wingnut du jour Glen Beck — 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.

So, a local talk station got Rush’s show for zilch. 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.

...Major-market right-wing talk stations, like San Francisco’s KSFO-AM (“Reichstag Radio”) have to pay actual money, of course, to carry Boss Limbaugh’s daily proclamation-a-thon. (Note: KSFO, which I referred to as “Sieg Heil on Your Dial” in my column when it first switched to righty talk, is the same station that gave hatemonger Michael Savage his first radio megaphone).

Here’s Sammy’s startling revelation, Bill Mann is a fool. Some of you may remember that I spend 30 years in the advertising buisness, all of it on the media side. I have not only purchased and evaluated syndicated radio and TV shows, but have created syndicated radio and TV shows.

Mann is probably right, Rush’s small market affiliates, are probably bartered. And Glenn Beck, the other show that Premiere syndicates is also probably bartered in small market stations. In fact almost every radio show that is syndicated to small markets, gets there through barter.

You see, a syndicator isn’t going to generate much revenue out of a station in Zanesville or Youngstown, the stations simply don’t have the money.  But a barter arraignment helps the syndicator by filling  holes in national coverage numbers and increase national ratings.

Now here is the real spectacular revelation. Whether paid or not, if a show is a stinker, and no one wants to listen, it gets canceled.  Station Managers in small markets are not the idiots that Mann thinks his readers are. They won’t run crap just because its free. Only Huffington Post, in the case of your column, will do that.

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