'Marketplace' Report: Imus Fallout Responding to comments by radio host Don Imus, Procter and Gamble has pulled all of its advertising from MSNBC's daytime schedule. Staples is also yanking their ads, and Bigelow Tea is considering a suspension of sponsorship.
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'Marketplace' Report: Imus Fallout

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ALEX COHEN, host:

From NPR News, it's DAY TO DAY.

The controversy over Don Imus' remarks about the women's basketball team at Rutgers has now hit the bottom line. One media insider is calling for Imus to be fired. Bruce Gordon made that call. He's the former head of the NAACP. He is also on the board of directors of CBS, which owns Imus' show.

Now advertisers are pulling their support from his show. Here to talk about the business side of this gathering storm is Bob Moon of MARKETPLACE. Hi, Bob.

BOB MOON: Hey, Alex.

COHEN: Bob, exactly how much money does the Imus show bring in?

MOON: Well, there are several media reports out there today, Alex, estimating that "Imus in the Morning" rakes in more than $20 million a year for CBS Radio. The cable channel MSNBC pays CBS to carry the program as well. And the New York Times reports that when you add up the ad revenue from MSNBC and the various local affiliates for Imus, it exceeds $50 million every year.

So there's a lot of money at stake here, although so far, only a handful of advertisers have pulled out, and perhaps only temporarily. The office supply chain Staples, Proctor and Gamble, Bigelow Tea, those are the major names to announce suspensions of their advertising. But we spoke to veteran media business expert Porter Bibb at Mediatech Capital Partners, and he points out a lot will depend on how long this lasts.

Mr. PORTER BIBB (Managing Partner, Mediatech Capital Partners): If you read between the lines, the advertisers have basically pulled their advertising for two weeks, the same period that Don Imus has been suspended. And all of the advertisers, as far as I've been able to discern, have said they're going to wait and review the situation to see whether they'd put their advertising back on "Imus in the Morning."

MOON: One interesting comment from another leading media analyst, Larry Gerbrandt of Nielsen Analytics, he told the New York Times Imus might even come out ahead if this notoriety turns out to push up his ratings.

COHEN: Coming out ahead is a far cry from getting fired, which is what a lot of folks say should happen to him. Is there any kind of precedent for a radio host getting sacked because of making a remark like that?

MOON: There's so much money at stake here that media analysts don't expect CBS to be able to afford to lose the cash, really. There had been cases where a so-called shock jocks have been fired. Back in 1999, for example, there was a radio host, Doug "The Greaseman" Tracht, who was fired from a Washington, D.C. station for a racist remark.

COHEN: Now, the sponsors who've pulled out of the morning show, of course, get their names all over the news today when recovering that they're pulling their money. Does that help them get some free advertising? Does it help to be kind of an in front on this issue for Proctor and Gamble, Staples?

MOON: Yeah, I put that very question to Porter Bibb at Mediatech Capital Partners. He does think that there can be an upside to getting your name out there as an advertiser.

Mr. PORTER BIBB (Managing Partner, Corporate Finance, Mediatech Capital Partners): I think that the goodwill factor of advertisers like Staples and Procter & Gamble and Bigelow stepping up and saying we're going to suspend our advertising on Imus is of some real tangible benefits to these companies.

MOON: By the way, the way things are scheduled now, Imus has been suspended until April 30th - that's just about the time the TV ratings sweeps will be getting underway, when he gets back.

COHEN: Thanks, Bob. Bob Moon of Public Radio's daily business show MARKETPLACE, which is produced by American Public Media.

(Soundbite of music)

MOON: Next time on MARKETPLACE, it's not easy being a tax accountant. Congress is always messing with the tax code, and nowadays, there's a new challenge - patents on some tax-saving techniques. If only we were making it up. It's from American Public Media.

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