Armed Forces Radio to Air Sean Hannity Show

John at AMERICAblog reports that Armed Forces Radio has signed a deal to air Sean Hannity’s radio show. He’s not happy.

It took forever for the Pentagon to finally accept having Ed Schultz’s liberal radio show on the Armed Forces Radio as a counter to conservative Rush Limbaugh (and, from what I’ve heard, they still haven’t started airing Schultz). Yet now, as soon as the Armed Forces Radio is finally approaching being fair and balanced, one openly-conservative show to one openly-liberal, they go off and try to sign Sean Hannity’s ABC radio show to un-even the score.

(And let me make clear, by saying it’s one to one, I’m being generous. Armed Forces Radio carries Limbaugh, “Dr.” Laura, and religious right freak James Dobson as well. I didn’t see any obvious lefties on their entire line-up.)


[P]erhaps the Pentagon is about to seek the rights to Air America’s broadcasts as well, and that would be quite smart of them, and in that case, I’d have no objection to them getting Hannity too, to even things out. But as it currently stands, it’s looking very 2-1, conservative to liberal, at Armed Forces Radio, and that isn’t right. Especially after they were more than happy to have zero liberal commentators to balance Limbaugh for all these years.

Propagandizing the Iraqis is one thing, but don’t our troops deserve to hear from all sides, even those troops who just so happen to be Democrats? Or aren’t Democrats in uniform as American as the rest of our troops?

AFR, like any radio station, caters to its audience. Hannity is undeniably more appealing to servicemen than the Air America crew. Indeed, judging by ratings, more appealing, period.

Further, its mission isn’t to provide all viewpoints:

AFRTS is the American Forces Radio and Television Service. It is part of the Department of Defense, and is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. The AFRTS mission is to communicate Department of Defense policies, priorities, programs, goals and initiatives.

Granting that I have not listened to a representative sampling of all their programs, but surely Hannity, Limbaugh, and the rest are more conducive to that mission than Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo.

Update: Joe Gandleman disagrees:

American isn’t only Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. And the people who bravely serve and die in the military aren’t only of one viewpoint. If there is no balance, then ALL political talk shows need to be removed from Armed Forces Radio.

Again, though, “balance” isn’t the goal. AFRTS exists to entertain the troops, give them access to the programming they miss from home, and support the DoD’s policies. Frankly, I’m not sure Ed Shultz does that, let alone the Air America team.

Also, from the AFRTS page,

Q: How are programs selected?

A: Weekly Nielsen (television) and Arbitron (radio) ratings in the United States and periodic DOD surveys are used by AFRTS to identify the most popular shows to match AFRTS audience demographics. In recent years, AFRTS has been able to acquire and air 90 to 95 percent of the top 75 U.S. prime time series. No single U.S. station or network provides a similar service.

I’m not having much luck finding recent nationwide Arbitron ratings. Here’s one listing that looks plausible, though:

2005 Talkers Magazine Talk Host Survey

1. Rush Limbaugh 14.75 million
2. Sean Hannity 13 million
3. Michael Savage(t) 8.75 million
3. Howard Stern (t) 8.75 million
5. Dr. Laura Schlessinger 7.50 million
6. Laura Ingraham 5 million
7. Jim Bohannon 3.75 million
8. Neal Boortz (t) 3.5 million
8. Mike Gallagher (t) 3.5 million
10. Clark Howard 3.25 million
11. Glen Beck (t) 3 million
11. Don Imus (t) 3 million
11. Bill O’Reilly (t) 3 million
11. Doug Stephan (t) 3 million
15. Dr. Joy Browne (t) 2.75 million
15. George Noory (t) 2.75 million
17. Kim Kommando (t) 2 million
17. Michael Medved (t) 2 million
17. Dave Ramsey (t) 2 million
17. Jim Rome (t) 2 million
21. Bob Brinker (t) 1.75 million
21. G. Gordon Liddy (t) 1.75 million
23. Jerry Doyle (t) 1.5 million
23. Tom Leykis (t) 1.5 million
25. Bill Bennett 1.25 million
26. Jim Cramer (t) 1 million
26. Dr. Dean Edell (t) 1 million
26. Phil Hendrie (t) 1 million
26. Rusty Humphries (t) 1 million
26. Tony Snow (t) 1 million

One presumes that a survey of the AFRTS listening audience would produce a similar listing. Given the over-the-top nature of their shows, Savage and Stern would seem obvious nonstarters.

Update (12/3): Commenter Holmey e-mails a link to the latest ratings:

Click for larger image.

Most interesting is the ascendency of Jerry Doyle, known to some of you as “Mr. Garibaldi” from Babylon 5. He’s on during evening drive in the D.C. market and is actually quite interesting. He’s of the “both parties are corrupt and we need a third party”viewpoint that tends to annoy me but it’s an entertaining show.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. bindare says:

    “Or aren’t Democrats in uniform as American as the rest of our troops?” In my opinion most Democrats are as American as the rest of our troops but I have serious doubts about Liberals. They seem to owe their allegience to the United Nations or to France, Germany, and Russia, or to some nebulous one world idea. Since to most of them, the USA is always wrong and the cause of all the problems in the world, it is logical to assume their allegience lies elsewhere.

  2. Maggie says:

    Now tell me…do you think they’ll be releasing the numbers on listening audience?

  3. Barry says:

    Having Rush on during the Clinton administration would violate that stated policy, unless the policy of the DoD were to slander, defame and lie out the President.

  4. jeff says:

    Liberals just don’t get it.

    The soldiers are the ones who give the feedback as to who they want to listen to; and they don’t want Ed Schultz. They asked for Rush and got him; they asked for Laura and hear her, now they want to listen to Hannity and will hear him also.

    Why would they want to listen to a guy who calls their Commander in Chief a liar, denigrates their performance and officers in Iraq, then claims he is for the soldiers?

    Now we have a story that Ed is pumping about the military paying reporters to air FACTUAL reports in Iraqi newspapers about the good things the soldiers are doing. Ed thinks this is terrible; but don’t newspapers in America PAY their reporters to run stories that the OWNERS deem worthy and fit to print?

    Ed is just a big tired blow hard who’s struggling show is kept afloat by a committment from the Democrats to get Democrat leaders on his show at his beckoning in an effort to build his ratings. Don’t believe me? Never a day goes by he does not have Dorgan, Levin, Kerry, Pelosi the surrender monkey, Harkin, etc on his show. It does not seem to matter that these politicians are suppose to be ON THE JOB working for us taxpayers; they all seem to have time to run to the phone when Ed calls. I find it disturbing that our elected officials are spending our valuable time on a two bit radio show in an effort to make Ed profitable so he can live a more “comfortable” lifestyle that he feels he is entitled to.

  5. LJD says:

    Ah, the left-wing bean counters rear their ugly heads. One more example of forced diversity, but why stop there? Why not add a Libertarian show? Hell, why not add AL Jazeera?

    Perhaps our troops should hear what the left is saying about them. So they can come back at the end of their tours and smack them back into reality.

  6. Fersboo says:

    I wonder if Mr. Can’t-we-all-just-get-along-
    high-moral-ground-Joe-Gandleman has ever had the honor of having AFRTS, and only AFRTS, provide your news and entertainment of it’s ilk for an extended period of time.

    I am sure they have upgraded it since 1990 when I left Germany, but 2 years of Oprah and PSAs about not tipping soda machines because they can kill got old.

  7. DC Loser says:

    I’m sure Howard Stern has quite a following amongst the young enlisted audience demographics. How about it, AFRTS?

  8. Bithead says:

    I am, perhaps, the only person with any serious radio history here. And I will tell you that THIS is what it comes down to;

    AFR, like any radio station, caters to its audience. Hannity is undeniably more appealing to servicemen than the Air America crew. Indeed, judging by ratings, more appealing, period.

    Further, its mission isn’t to provide all viewpoints

    And that in reality is what puts the “Haines your way” in a twist on people like Gandleman. (Who by the way, is no centerist) They’re still trying to enforce their ‘fairness doctrine’, regardless of what the people actually WANT, you see.

  9. Josh Cohen says:

    I also have radio experience. Despite the fact that I do often agree with Hannity’s positions, I find his show absolutely terrible. He talks over his guests with reckless abandon even when they’re not liberals, he misses breaks or talks over his stinger, his intro is NINETY SECONDS LONG — and only 40 seconds of it is “music playing in the background while the news finishes up” — and when something special or bad happens, he’s been known to do an intro up to three minutes long, and his voice itself is extremely annoying.

    Plus, PDs can perfectly-popular local shows nationwide to put him on the air.

    I will never, EVER listen to Sean Hannity again. And I pity the members of the Armed Forces who are going to have him on their airwaves.

  10. McGehee says:

    He talks over his guests with reckless abandon even when they’re not liberals…

    I noticed that one time when he was sitting in for Limbaugh. I know RL has a rep, somewhat deserved, for strong-arming the direction of a conversation (he did it to me once, back before he went national), but Hannity was in a league all by himself.

  11. James Joyner says:

    Josh and Kevin: I don’t disagree. I find him and O’Reilly quite annoying and tend to avoid them. But they’re undeniably popular.

  12. anjin-san says:

    It’s worth noting that Hannity is one of the many war supporters who never served.

  13. bithead says:

    And what tees off the left is that the Hanity and his POV are popular in the currently serving military.

    It’s the reason they’re playing the ‘fairness’ card, now with AFR. They can’t get around this fact with anything less than legislation.

  14. karin says:

    seems to be 6 democratic iraq vets running for office vs. one republican-hmmm seems like there are more democrats enlisted than republicans who are too busy running away from serving their country. i believe they are called chicken hawks.
    george bush wants to stay the course in iraq-yet not one bush family member in any of the extended bush family is serving. thune has 5 sons all of militay age-not one serving. makes one wonder. george bush couldn’t even stay the course and during the time of the vietnam war finish his service. he got excused to get out early to go to law school.

  15. karin says:

    p.s. hannity’s show has been cancelled in some markets.

  16. karin says:

    p.p.s. randi rhodes from air america radio served in the air force. any of you served?

  17. Bithead says:

    hannity’s show has been cancelled in some markets.

    Yes, that’s true.
    Let’s take as an example, WROC in Rochester. A litle 1000 watter on 950 on the southeast side of town. Hannity was running there in the afternoons, going up against a 50kw flamethrower carrying Rush’s show.

    They held there own with that. They decided to go with Err America, with which they’re now doing about 25% of the listenership they had with Hanity. Now, recently, they canned their high-priced program director… the one who urged Err America in the first place. My take is they’ll be off Err America and back on Hanity soon as the contractual obligations are met.

    Meanwhile, given this is winter, 1210/WPHT and 77/WABC both get in here just fine for all of Hanity’s show… with a bigger, more dependable signal than WROC could ever hope to cover the area with.

  18. Holmey says:

    The numbers in the original post are old. This is the most up to date Talkers survey.

  19. Steve says:

    Howard Stern has talked about Rush Limbaugh’s ratings and how he brags so much about being number one in radio. Stern basically said that Limbaugh willingly whores himself out and gives his show away for free to stations that otherwise wouldn’t have him just to broaden his market. I don’t see much honor in that.

  20. James Joyner says:

    For one thing, I’m not sure why we’d take Stern’s word for that. For another, so what? When I’m chosing to listen to a radio program, I don’t give a whit what the station paid to get it.

    What Stern may be talking about is the widely known fact that Limbaugh’s syndicate pioneered the concept of working for a share of ad revenue. Given that political talk was considered death, that allowed stations to get his programming with minimal risk. The result has been the launching of a revolution in the medium. With the exception of Stern and Imus, who do a different type of show, all the hosts on the list owe their careers to Limbaugh.

  21. Steve says:

    For one thing, I’m not sure why we’d take Stern’s word for that.

    I’m not sure why anyone takes anything Limbaugh says seriously either so I guess it’s a wash?

    Many of Limbaugh’s affiliates don’t pay a single dime to carry him. Who couldn’t attain a large audience that way? It’s pretty sad to be so willing to give yourself away like that just to expand your market. It makes me question how much faith he really has in his own product.

    And as far as his ratings, not what they once were.

    This was reported in the Star Tribune this year:

    Locally, conservative-talk icon Rush Limbaugh’s show has lost 43 percent of its audience among 25- to 54-year-olds in the past year. Sean Hannity’s show is down a whopping 63 percent. The shift is serious enough that “we’re weighing where these shows fit for us in the future,” according to Todd Fisher, general manager at KSTP (1500 AM), which carries both syndicated programs.>

    O’reilly is also in a funk as he was recently dropped from Denver.

    Not such an impressive showing from the so-called “pioneers” of radio.

  22. Steve says:

    Limbaugh’s rise to success rooted in giveaways.

    Which brings us to talk radio. Talk radio was invented many decades ago. Call-in talk radio emerged as early as the 1940s and 1950s. Talk radio complied with FCC community service requirements by focusing on public interest issues and presenting all viewpoints. In the 1970s and early 1980s national and local talk show hosts such as Larry King, Patrick Buchanan, Joel A. Spivak and Mort Sahl were popular. In 1984, the most popular talk radio host, interestingly, was Denver-based liberal Alan Berg. In June of that year, Berg was machine gunned to death by right-wingers claiming they were from the Aryan nation. In one of history’s many ironies, that same month Rush Limbaugh began his talk show at KFBK in Sacramento.

    Rush Limbaugh’s show was unique among talk radio. There were no guests. It was all Rush all the time, mixing humor with an in-your-face attitude and a one-sided perspective. A few months after the FCC dropped the Fairness Doctrine Limbaugh syndicated his show in unprecedented fashion, by offering it free of charge to stations across the nation. Within weeks 56 stations had picked up the show; within four years over 600 stations were carrying it, the fastest spread of any talk show in history.

  23. James Joyner says:

    But ALL RADIO SHOWS ARE FREE to listeners. The measure of success if audience share, not number of stations. I find Limbaugh’s show annoying but it’s undeniable that he is phenomenally successful.