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Video: Shock jocks under fire

By Media analyst
updated 5/23/2007 8:17:58 PM ET 2007-05-24T00:17:58

The post- Imus “shock jock” world is extremely rocky these days.  There are a new set of rules for what you can and cannot say, who you can and cannot offend, and how you are supposed to apologize when you cross the line…even though the line keeps moving. The most recent victims of the “Imus effect” are New York shock jocks Opie and Anthony, who were suspended for 30 days by XM Satellite Radio for a totally disgusting and degrading bit with a guy called “Homeless Charlie,” who called in to say that he would love to rape First Lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. 

Reading about what they did is one thing, but actually listening to it is quite another because Opie and Anthony yukked it up big time as this supposedly homeless guy talks about violently assaulting the First Lady and Secretary of State.  Where the humor is in this I’m not exactly sure. Apparently neither do the corporate suits at XM who decided not to wait for anymore fallout and slapped a 30 day suspension on these longtime bad boys on the radio scene. 

A few days earlier, a CBS-owned radio station in New York got rid of “The Dog House with JV and Elvis” for a less offensive but again, totally not funny bit in which they called a Chinese restaurant with a mock Asian accent and kept asking for “shrimp fried lice.”  In the bit, they also made reference to a range of offensive Asian stereotypes. 

So here’s the deal.  Whether it’s Opie and Anthony or JV and Elvis, these guys have no idea how to adapt to the post-Imus rules in radio.  You would think it would matter that Opie and Anthony are on a paid subscription service as opposed to free radio, but the corporate executives at XM have apparently decided they don’t want or need the heat.  They don’t need the bad publicity; they don’t want the protests from ethnic, racial, or women’s groups demanding that these shock jocks get the same treatment as Imus.  Radio executives are not waiting for sponsors to bail, or Al Sharpton to form another lame “day of outrage.”  What’s particularly interesting about the post-Imus radio world is that most of these guys are doing exactly what they were hired to do—shock people, offend people, cross the line and basically be disgusting.  The problem is that since Imus got dumped, there seems to be a new level of sensitivity in radio.  Apparently, the radio brass has decided that they have a conscience; they want to do the right thing.  They want to actually be somewhat responsible for what they put on the air. 

The only catch is that this new approach goes 180 degrees against the approach they took when they hired these clowns.  The current crop of shock jocks only have one game plan.  They have no Plan B.  They have no ability or desire to adopt a “kinder, gentler” on- air approach.  I say Opie and Anthony being suspended on XM was probably the right thing because it sends the message that Imus wasn’t an isolated incident, and that crossing way over the line as it relates to violating women does have consequences. 

But how can anyone be surprised that Opie and Anthony find themselves on the edge of being thrown out of the radio world again?  These are the same guys that got dumped from free radio a few years ago after a ridiculous prank in which a couple had on- air sex at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.  XM knew that when they hired Opie and Anthony.  So did CBS, when they put a version on their show on terrestrial radio.  So, who’s kidding whom?  The corporate suits knew what they were getting, which is why they paid big bucks.  It was for the ratings and the advertising money. 

While I give them credit at XM for shutting Opie and Anthony down for 30 days, they still have to be held accountable for hiring them in the first place.  Some say free speech is on the run, and the first amendment is in trouble.  I’m not convinced.  I see the marketplace screaming loud and clear that there is a new sense of decency.  There is a new line in the post- Imus era that apparently you can’t cross without paying the price.  I don’t advocate the firing of anyone.  But I do believe in some semblance of responsibility and decency, even when people are trying to be funny.  I don’t believe the FCC should start regulating satellite, so XM was smart to regulate itself, particularly as they attempt to merge with Sirius Satellite Radio. 

So, this is a wakeup call for all the radio shock jocks in the country.  Get a new act, and do it in a hurry.  Funny is one thing, violently offensive is another.  If you think that’s just my opinion, then why did all these guys apologize if what they said wasn’t wrong?   The question is, will these apologies be enough in the post- Imus radio era?  To date, the answer is a resounding no.

Write to Steve Adubato at steve.adubato@stand-deliver.com

© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints


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