Fans of Howard Stern were horrified on Thursday to hear that the radio shock jock was yanked off the air and replaced by a more wholesome show only to find out later it was all an April Fool’s day prank.
Instead of hearing Stern and his sidekicks open the morning show, New York’s WXRK Radio’s General Manager Tom Chiusano read a statement saying the show was taken off the air.
“Viacom can no longer bear the weight of the government pressure and its affects on our corporation,” he said, adding, “While we’re sorry to end the Howard Stern Show, we promise quality programming in the future.”
After the message, two other deejays then played about an hour of music interspersed with sterile banter and a promise of a show with “all the fun without the filth.”
Listeners across the country called the show to complain. But then Stern and his sidekick Robin Quivers came on the show and revealed it was a hoax.
“We are back for anybody who was stupid enough to fall for that,” Stern said.
Added Quivers: “Check your calendar, people.”
The joke was taken seriously by many since Stern has been in the eye of a national storm over indecency in radio and TV broadcasting and has predicted he will be thrown off the air.
Stern, notorious for lewd talk about sex and bodily functions, has railed against the crackdown on indecency and has made President Bush and his conservative policies a target of on-air rants.
Broadcasters have been under pressure in recent months with lawmakers contemplating legislation to substantially raise fines for those who violate indecency regulations.
Clear Channel Communications Inc. the top U.S. radio station owner. dropped Stern’s show from six stations after a racist remark from a listener was aired in February.
Earlier this month, Viacom Inc. President Mel Karmazin apologized for broadcasting the comment. Stern’s show is syndicated by Viacom’s Infinity Broadcasting unit.
Stern, who generates as much as $100 million in advertising and fees for his nationwide carrier, blamed the conservative backlash on the exposure of singer Janet Jackson’s breast during a performance in February’s Super Bowl half-time show.