A little static is crackling through talk king Rush Limbaugh's airwaves. Several industry sources say his major affiliates are grumbling about this summer's ratings, which either dipped or were flat in most major markets. They also complain privately that Mr. Limbaugh has become "preachy and pedantic" since the Republicans took over Congress.
"He has become too full of himself and too much of an insider," says one industry analyst who traces the beginning of the decline to Limbaugh's visit to Capitol Hill in January when he became an honorary member of the 104th Congress. "Suddenly he was a policy guru who was going to change the country's direction ..., where up to that point he was an entertainer."
The number of stations carrying "The Rush Limbaugh Show" also has stalled. That's in part because, with 660 affiliates, Rush now blankets the country. It would be difficult to sign up new affiliates without stepping on another affiliate's territory.
No one predicts that the king of conservative talk will be in any serious trouble anytime soon. With an estimated 20 million listeners, he can afford to lose a few ratings points.
"He could fall a pretty long way and still be king of the roost," says the owner of a station that carries Limbaugh's show.
Others in the industry agree and suggest that the talk-show host's recent pedantry is just a temporary malaise - nothing a good presidential election can't cure.