March 9, 2012

WGAN: Limbaugh show stays on the air

The radio station says it will continue airing Rush Limbaugh despite a petition demanding that his program be dropped.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND - The controversy over "The Rush Limbaugh Show" continued in the Portland area Thursday as protesters delivered a petition to WGAN-AM, a lawsuit was filed against a local marketing firm and more companies asked the radio station not to air their ads during Limbaugh's program.

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Annie Finch of Falmouth shows off the 5,700 signatures calling on radio station WGAN to stop airing the Rush Limbaugh show outside the Portland Radio Group offices Thursday.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Rush Limbaugh

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On Thursday morning, Annie Finch of Falmouth led about a dozen women and a couple of men into the South Portland office of the Portland Radio Group to deliver a thick white binder with the names of 5,700 people who signed a petition demanding that the company stop airing Limbaugh's show on WGAN, one of its eight stations.

Finch, who started the petition on Facebook last weekend, said it was "fitting" to deliver it on Thursday, International Women's Day, considering the nature of the protest.

"Rush Limbaugh's anti-woman rants have gone so far that it is unacceptable for WGAN to profit from filling Maine's airwaves with his hate and misogyny," the petition read.

At least two stations that aired the Limbaugh show -- WBEC in Pittsfield, Mass., and KPUA in Hilo, Hawaii -- have dropped the program since Limbaugh called Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and "prostitute" last week because she testified to federal legislators in support of health care coverage for contraception.

Portland Radio Group's president and general manager, Cary Pahigian, said the petition would not affect his previously stated position that WGAN has no intention of dropping the show.

Not long after the petition was delivered, news broke nationally that the Kentucky-based parent company of Concentra Health Services had sued the Preval Group of Portland for marketing memory pills -- called Concentra -- on ads during Limbaugh's show.

Humana said in court documents filed Thursday that the company received angry calls and emails after an ad for the pills aired Monday, according to an Associated Press report.

Preval's attorney, Richard Olson, said the two companies, which are not related, had been trying to resolve the issue of carrying the same name -- an issue made more critical by the ad airing during Limbaugh's show.

Preval "is certainly sorry for any embarrassment that the other Concentra might have suffered," Olson said.

He said no more ads for the memory pills, which aired in the New York City market, were scheduled to air, and he expects the legal issue to be "settled fairly quickly."

Meanwhile, Maine businesses including Norway Savings Bank and Portland Ovations have joined the 40-some companies nationwide that have asked that their ads not be aired during Limbaugh's program.

Other Maine companies that have told WGAN not to air their ads during Limbaugh's afternoon time slot include Downeast Energy, RSVP Discount Beverage, Cunningham Security and DiMillo's restaurant in Portland.

Though a "handful" of advertisers have asked to avoid the time slot, Pahigian said, none has pulled its ads from the station. He said another handful of businesses asked for their ads to air during Limbaugh's show.

The manager of DiMillo's and the senior vice president of marketing for Norway Savings Bank said their decisions to avoid the program were attempts to avoid association with the controversy, not make political statements.

Neither advertiser knew that their ads aired during Limbaugh's show until they were notified by listeners this week.

"We didn't want any of our customers to think we were endorsing that way of thinking or that attitude," said Steven DiMillo Sr.

Karen Hakala of Norway Savings Bank said the backlash the bank received was primarily postings on its Facebook page, by people from out of state.

Even if customers weren't making the posts, it's important for people who view the page "to see how we respond," she said.

Because WGAN hasn't lost any advertisers, the controversy hasn't had a financial impact on the Portland Radio Group. In fact, it has been a boon for the station's morning news program, according to the show's co-host, Mike Violette.

"It's like Christmas morning every day. ... We don't often get to talk about our own product," he said while watching the protesters deliver the petition Thursday.

Though Violette said he doesn't support their cause, he said he thought the petition was an "awesome" example of free speech.

And, he said, "the attention is great."

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

lbridgers@pressherald.com

 

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