The boycott against talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh has some unexpected beneficiaries: non-profits getting more ad time on his show.
The United Negro College Fund, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the American Heart Association are among the organizations that had ads air yesterday during Limbaugh’s program, the biggest U.S. talk show, on WABC-AM in New York.
Of the 69 commercial spots on the three-hour show, more than half were public-service announcements, according to data collected by Media Matters for America, a Washington-based non-profit whose mission is to fight “conservative misinformation.” Its research found none on March 1, the day after Limbaugh made his controversial comments about law student Sandra Fluke. Some charities have since taken steps to remove their spots from Limbaugh’s show on stations where they air.
“Those are free,” said Angelo Carusone, campaign director for Media Matters, which has fanned Limbaugh opposition. “It’s a sign the boycott is working.”
Media Matters has asked advertisers to drop Limbaugh’s show since the radio host called Fluke, a student at Georgetown University, a “slut” and “prostitute” after she testified before a panel of Congressional Democrats Feb. 23. Fluke spoke in support of President Barack Obama’s policy requiring health insurers to pay for birth control for women.
Cumulus Media Inc., the Atlanta-based owner of WABC, declined to comment, according to a spokesman.
The American Heart Association said it would ask WABC to stop running the unpaid announcements.
“It is our practice to be a content-sensitive advertiser, and in light of the current controversy, we will be asking WABC to no longer utilize these unpaid PSAs,” Matthew Bannister, executive vice president of communications at the Dallas-based heart association, said in an e-mail.
Clear Channel Communication’s Inc.’s Premiere Networks, which distributes Limbaugh’s show, issued a statement supporting the host this week.
“The contraception debate is one that sparks strong emotion and opinions on both sides of the issue,” Premiere, based in Los Angeles, said in the statement. “We believe he did the right thing on Saturday, and again on his radio show on Monday, by expressing regret for his choice of words and offering his sincere and heartfelt apology to Ms. Fluke.”
Joye Griffin, a spokeswoman for the Fairfax, Virginia-based United Negro College Fund, referred an inquiry to the New York-based Ad Council, which manages spots for the fund and other groups.
“We cannot control or predict where they appear,” Ellyn Fisher, a council spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. “We find out from reporting afterwards.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is working with the council to pull its spots from stations that carry the Limbaugh show, Jill Godsey, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia-based organization, said in an e-mail.
“We made this decision at the request of national and local donors, some of whom made their concerns known via Facebook and Twitter posts,” Godsey said.
Others receiving the spots include the charities Save the Children and Feeding America, and New York City’s Office of Emergency Management.
“We don’t place the ads. We’ve worked with the Ad Council,” said Christopher Gilbride, press secretary for the office. The department’s ads on the show reminded listeners to create a disaster plan in the event a crisis “turns your world upside down.”
‘Upside Down’ World
Public-service announcements are free spots dating back to World War II that are meant to raise awareness of an issue. Radio broadcasters on public airwaves use them to show they are operating in the public interest.
Companies including online publisher AOL Inc., retailer Stamps.com Inc. and legal adviser LegalZoom.com Inc. pulled their ads from Limbaugh’s show after activists such as Media Matters began calling for a boycott.
Two radio stations, Hawaii’s KPUA and WPEC in Massachusetts, also dropped the program.
Limbaugh, 61, said yesterday on the show that three new sponsors had signed up. He said reports of as many as 32 leaving were inaccurate and that many local stations sell their own commercials.
“Everything is fine on the business side,” Limbaugh said. “Everything’s cool. There is not a thing to worry about.”