The Fall of Right-Wing Radio and TV?

New ratings figures recently released by the media marketing firm Arbitron show a precipitous drop in the number of people tuning into extreme conservative talk-radio.

“Right-wing talk radio may have worn out its welcome, at least for now. The just-out April Arbitron report shows Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity—the biggest conservative talkers in New York—stuck in a ratings slump that started back in November, right after the 2010 midterm elections.

Top-rated Mr. Limbaugh has taken the biggest fall. He had a 3.0 share of listeners for his WABC-AM midday slot—a 33% slide from October and from last April. Mr. Hannity’s afternoon show was down 28% from its fall peak, as was fellow conservative Mark Levin’s evening program.” (Source:

Forbes reported that Arbitron’s numbers shows a 33% drop in the number of people listening to Rush Limbaugh. Sean Hannity’s numbers were 28% off their peak last Fall.

Ratings dropped for other, similar right-wing firebrands, including Sean Hannity (down 28%). Fox has declined to air any more special segments hosted by Sara Palin. The decline in listeners and viewers of far-right media commentators and politicians comes on the heels of the announcement in April that Glenn Beck was leaving Fox News, because of falling ad revenues (apparently, hundreds of advertisers decided that the ultra-conservative Beck was too controversial).

Roger Ailes, Chairman of Fox News, apparently wants to be a conservative kingmaker, according to a soon-to-be-released book by New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman. That’s one reason why he has backed high-visibility conservatives by giving them shows on Fox. Former governor Mike Huckabee, former governor Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and others are part of a stable of potential presidential candidates that Ailes ostensibly would back. It turns out that his plans may be in a state of flux, given the recent ratings drop and concomitant loss of advertising revenue. In an pre-release excerpt, Sherman wrote:

“It must have been disturbing to Ailes when the wheels started to come off Fox’s presidential-circus caravan. With an actual presidential election on the horizon, the Fox candidates’ poll numbers remain dismally low. … Ailes’s candidates-in- waiting were coming up small. And, for allhis programming genius, he was more interested in a real narrative than a television narrative–he wanted to elect a president.”

None of this, of course, means that right-wing talk is “dying,” as the Daily Beast speculated in February, or that the era of Limbaugh and his clones is over, as Salon hopefully posts today. But it probably does mean we’re headed for a period when the dinner party of political discourse will be a little less dominated by the loud voices coming all the way from one end of the table.

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