Limbaugh's AWOL Sponsors Open Way for Nonprofits

But American Heart Association Wants Out

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Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh
The boycott against talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh has some unexpected beneficiaries: nonprofits 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 nonrofit whose mission is to fight "conservative misinformation" and previously targeted advertisers on Glenn Beck's Fox News show. Its research found no public-service announcements March 1, the day after Limbaugh made his controversial comments about law student Sandra Fluke.

"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 Mr. 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. Ms. Fluke spoke in support of President Barack Obama's policy requiring health insurers to pay for birth control for women.

Cumulus Media, the Atlanta-based owner of WABC, declined to comment.

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, exec VP-communications at association, said in an e-mail.

Clear Channel Communication's Premiere Networks, which distributes Mr. 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. "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."

Some of the marketers that have been criticized for running ads during "The Rush Limbaugh Show" have said they didn't mean to -- that their ads appeared on the program as part of a larger, nonspecific buy of audiences pegged merely to a radio station or time of day. Netflix and JCPenney have said their ads ran during the show despite specific instructions to keep them out of it.

The nonprofits now getting ad time on the program haven't asked to appear there either. Joye Griffin, a spokeswoman for the United Negro College Fund, referred an inquiry to the 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 New York City didn't respond to phone messages. 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," said Christopher Gilbride, press secretary for the office. "We've worked with the Ad Council."

The department's ads on the show reminded listeners to create a disaster plan in the event a crisis "turns your world upside down."

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 AOL, Stamps.com and legal adviser LegalZoom.com pulled their ads from Mr. 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.

Mr. Limbaugh 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," Mr. Limbaugh said. "Everything's cool. There is not a thing to worry about."

-- Bloomberg News --

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