Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh, through his radio syndicator Premiere Radio Networks, sent out a press release titled “Limbaugh Leads the Race Against Liberal Talkers,” purportedly comparing his ratings to those of progressive talk stations.
The release lists ratings info for five cities — Austin, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Memphis — for Spring 2005 (March 31 to June 22). In two of those cities, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the stations that Rush claims he “defeated” didn’t switch to the progressive talk format until July 2005 — after the ratings period in question ended. Two of the other comparisons are also misleading. Rush claims to have won the ratings battle in Austin — but the progressive alternative is a low-watt station that broadcasts not out of Austin, but 20 miles away in bustling Pflugersville, Texas. The same is true of Rush’s performance in San Antonio, where the weaker progressive talk station is actually based in suburban Devine, Texas.
In other words, of the 591 stations on which Limbaugh broadcasts, he chose to highlight four where his “victories” are at best misleading, at worst plain dishonest.
The reality is that in several major markets, ratings for progressive talk are booming. In Denver, Air America’s ratings are up 500% from one year ago. “Seattle’s newly talk-formatted KPTK, doubled in the winter [ratings] book, Portland’s KPOJ-AM grew 1000% in audience share. In conservative San Diego, KLSD-AM went up 73%. … Other markets with similar success include: Boston, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Sacramento and Columbus.” Rush is even on the verge of being overtaken in his own home state.
An even more interesting comparison is found when looking at stations with integrated lineups that carry both Rush and a progressive host. In that apples-to-apples comparison, we see that Rush Limbaugh and Ed Schultz are actually very competitive.