KNAU and Arizona News
9:18 pm
Thu March 12, 2009

Rush booted, then returns to Flagstaff airwaves

Flagstaff, AZ – Listeners to this radio station may not have noticed, but on Monday this recognizable voice was pulled off the Flagstaff airwaves.

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Rush Limbaugh was yanked of the schedule of KAFF Country, Flagstaff's longtime home for the conservative talk radio host. The station's owners say it was strictly a business decisions. But listeners were outraged. And this morning at nine, the Rush Limbaugh show will return to KAFF.

"Over three days and about 200 phone calls, we decided that maybe we made a mistake."

That's Shaun Holly, one of the co-owners of Guy Ann corporation, which owns KAFF and four other radio stations in Flagstaff and Prescott.

"I was called names that I won't say on mic A lot of them thought it was a political move, a lot of them said, quote unquote, they got to you, didn't they. And I said, nobody's called me one way or the other, other than now, so it has nothing to do with a slant on politics or our belief as a radio station."

Rather, Holly says it was all about improving the station's bottom line.

"We had clients that would flee Rush like the plague, we had to make the determination that not only is it costing us, but we're not able to generate revenue from Rush."

It seems counterintuitive. Rush Limbaugh is the most popular talk radio show host in the country. It's hard to gauge the exact size of his audience, but he reaches an enormous number of people, more than 14 million every week. You'd think businesses would pay hand over fist to advertise on his show. But Shawn Holly says, at least in Flagstaff, that hasn't been the case.

"We have not had sponsors in the Rush Limbaugh show for months, maybe for a couple of years. And I think a lot of national advertisers like to stay away from anything that's controversial. So we had national advertisers that would place an order but say we specifically do not want to air in or around the Rush Limbaugh show."

But Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers Magazine, a trade journal about the talk radio field, doesn't think what's happening in Flagstaff is a national trend.

"I can't think of anybody I'd rather have on my station right now than Rush. He's one of the biggest money makers in radio, one of the biggest revenue generators, and certainly one of the biggest ratings generators in radio whether you like him or don't like him is irrelevant, he gets audience and he makes money."

For years Rush Limbaugh has made money for radio stations across northern Arizona, in Prescott, Kingman, Holbrook, and in Show Low, where he's heard on White Mountain Radio. Margaret Amos is the business manager there.

"We do have advertisers, local advertisers, that choose just to be on Rush Limbaugh. At times we've had national advertisers shy away, but not so much from Rush Limbaugh."

Michael Harrison, the editor of Talkers Magazine, agrees.

"I don't see advertisers fleeing from him at all, if anything we see advertisers getting the bargain of the century because his ratings have spiked. Last week and the week before when the news was all over the place, his ratings were through the ceiling. So if anything, Rush Limbaugh's advertisers on the Flagstaff station are getting a bargain, laugh.

The problem, according to KAFF's Shawn Holly, is that he doesn't have any advertisers. So KAFF began airing this promo yesterday, asking businesses and listeners to pony up.

"OK, KAFF listeners originally you showed no support for Rush Limbaugh we'll make a deal with you, if you agree to support and agree to support the advertisers then we will consider bringing Rush back."

And KAFF is bringing Rush back, this morning at nine. The only catch is that Limbaugh is on vacation until Monday. So for today anyway, Rush Limbaugh fans in Flagstaff will instead hear guest host Jason Lewis.