Chicago, Illinois, July 17, 2013 - With the national DOJ scandals and ongoing investigations into the IRS targeting of Tea Party swirling, WLS-AM should have been able to eke out respectable ratings for June.
But it didn't.
The national controversies were ideal fodder for the station's hungry right-leaning audience. But, instead, the news talker is battling three consecutive periods of declining ratings. WLS-AM went from a 2.7 share in the April ratings period, dipped to 2.5 in May, and down to only a 2.1 share in June. In contrast, competitor station, Tribune-owned WGN-AM pulled a 4.8 share in April and climbed to a 5.3 share in June, buoyed, in part, by Blackhawks' coverage.
The once popular WLS-AM now doesn't even break the top 10 and is in danger of falling out of the top 20. The station's swan-dive was the talk of the radio chat boards last week.
Stripped of its popular morning duo lead-in, Don Wade & Roma, is the station losing favor with its conservative audience?
Back in May, Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey blamed nationally-syndicated radio power house, Rush Limbaugh, for millions in company's losses. Dickey claimed advertisers have left after Limbaugh made insulting remarks about law student, Sandra Fluke, last year.
Seeking Alpha's Gary Bourgeault doesn't necessarily see Limbaugh as the culprit for Cumulus' recent losses.
"Cumulus Media Inc. just came off a poor quarter, although it was largely the result of losses in political advertising and the runoff of legacy Citadel barter transactions, which accounted for $3.2 million of the pro forma revenue loss," Bourgeault says. "The remaining loss of $2.4 million was from the syndicated talk segment of the company."
So can Dickey blame Limbaugh for the overall ratings decline of his stations like WLS-AM in Chicago? Or are stations like WLS-AM in decline due to overall station strategy and talent shortcomings in the line-up?
In 2011, company honchos also fired popular Christian conservative radio host Cisco Cotto. No reason was given. Cotto's ratings and revenue were excellent. Some insiders say the reason for Cotto's firing was the influence of political donors over the station's programming.
Is WLS-AM relying on political donors to prop up its bottom line as its ratings continue to bottom-out? How much longer will it be before heads roll?
And if political donors are influencing programming decisions, how does that bode for the radio industry in Chicago and around the country?
Here is how the Chicago Arbitrons looked for the April - June ratings period, Monday-Sunday 6:00am-Midnight:
WVAZ-FM Urban Adult Contemporary 7.0 6.9 6.9
WTMX-FM Modern Adult Contemporary 5.9 6.4 5.6
WGN-AM News Talk Information 4.8 4.3 5.3
WBBM-AM All News 5.4 4.5 4.5
WUSN-FM Country 3.7 4.1 4.2
WGCI-FM Urban Contemporary 4.2 3.6 4.1
WKSC-FM Pop Contemporary Hit 3.8 3.9 4.0
WLUP-FM Classic Rock 3.5 3.7 4.0
WBBM-FM Rhythmic Contemporary Hit 3.7 3.9 3.8
WDRV-FM Classic Hits 3.6 3.8 3.6
WLS-FM Classic Hits 3.0 3.1 3.2
WXRT-FM Album Adult Alternative 2.4 2.4 3.1
WOJO-FM Mexican Regional 2.9 2.9 3.0
WILV-FM Adult Contemporary 2.7 2.6 2.6
WLIT-FM Hot Adult Contemporary 2.8 2.9 2.6
WPWX-FM Urban Contemporary 2.5 2.4 2.6
WSCR-AM All Sports 2.8 2.7 2.5
WJMK-FM Adult Hits 2.6 2.4 2.3
WLS-AM News Talk Information 2.7 2.5 2.1
WNUA-FM Mexican Regional 2.6 2.6 2.0
WPPN-FM Spanish Adult Hits 2.5 2.7 2.0
WKQX-FM Alternative 1.9 1.9 1.9
WBEZ-FM News Talk Information 1.4 1.7 1.8
How much lower can WLS-AM go? Stay tuned.