How to End the Reign of Shock Jocks

What do recent radio references to "nappy-headed hos," raping Condi Rice, and "slimp flied lice" have in common?

Other than the desire to shock listeners -- and thereby create controversy, grow audiences and sell advertising -- the current spate of repulsive shock-jock gibberish all share something else: a salary from CBS.

Once peacock-proud of its self-styled "Tiffany" network -- so-called for its supposed devotion to quality -- the corporate heirs of William Paley traded public service for private profit long ago. But now no amount of filthy lucre can perfume away the stench wafting from the current trench of programming sewage being shoveled our way of late by such CBS on-air alleged "talent" as Opie & Anthony, JV and Elvis, and Don "I-Man" Imus.

It was CBS, of course, that offered Imus $40 million to render services of an "irreverent" and "controversial" nature -- and then fired him when he did the job too well. And it was CBS that hired JV and Elvis to crack wise on "The Dog House" before the "Imus effect" thankfully led to the cancellation of that program, after the hosts made a racist, sexist and homophobic on-air prank call ordering "slimp flied lice" from a Chinese restaurant.

And it was CBS that re-hired Opie and Anthony after dumping them five years ago for staging an on-air sex contest, complete with live coverage of a couple having sex in Saint Patrick's Cathedral. After outraged Catholics protested the desecration of their church, the duo looked for other employment -- and eventually found it, not only on XM satellite radio, where they staged their latest repellent stunt, but also on New York's WFNY-FM, where they are employed by -- wait, wait, don't tell me! -- CBS Radio.

Now that JV and Elvis are no longer in the house, having joined Imus on the unemployment line, and their Asian-mocking joking has left CBS execs with more community opprobrium, angry advertisers, and another gaping hole in their schedule, their fellow shock jocks Opie and Anthony should swiftly follow all three out the door. Maybe then their corporate overlords at CBS will finally learn that "making fun" of people because of their race, gender or sexual orientation really isn't funny, and that encouraging rape and violent assault is a criminal and not a comic act.

Unlike the CBS execs, the dopey duo -- whose real names are Gregg Hughes and Anthony Cumia -- at least had the sense to apologize last week after a guest on their XM satellite show advocated raping Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, First Lady Laura Bush and Queen Elizabeth of Britain. Here's a sample of their shocking "humor," as the hosts laugh and fantasize about the horror for Rice as studio guest "Homeless Charlie" is "holdin' her down" and assaulting her:

Voice 1 (Charlie): I tell you what -- what that George Bush bitch, Rice? Condoleezza Rice?

Voice 2 (Host): Condoleezza Rice.

V1: I'd love to fuck that bitch, man. (Laughter) She needs to fuck a man. I'd fuck her.

V2: I can just imagine the horror on Condoleezza Rice's face when she realized what was going on. (laughter)

V3 (Host 2): You were all just holdin' her down and, you know, fuckin' her. (laughter)

V1: Punch her all in the fuckin' face, saying, "Shut up, bitch." (laughter)

V3: That's exactly what I meant. (laughter)
(To hear the exchange, go">here)

So given the Imus effect, given the JV and Elvis situation, and given the known history of Opie and Anthony ... what did CBS do and say about the 'raping Rice' bit on XM?

Nothing and no comment, beyond the following statement by CBS Radio spokeswoman Karen Mateo: "Fortunately, we have standards that did not and would not ever let something like this make our air." No -- nothing like this -- just lame jokes about Asians and gays and stupid slurs against young, accomplished black women ...

The reaction from XM satellite radio was similarly curt. Asked whether the company would discipline Opie and Anthony, XM spokesman Nathaniel Brown said only, "We deplore the comments made on Wednesday's 'Opie & Anthony Show.'" It wasn't until almost a week later that the company announced that it would suspend the two jocks and cease broadcast of the show for 30 days ... an apology of sorts that only came, a company press release stated, after comments made by the pair on a May 14 broadcast "put into question whether they appreciate the seriousness of the matter. The management of XM Radio decided to suspend Opie and Anthony to make clear that our on-air talent must take seriously the responsibility that creative freedom requires of them."

But unlike XM, Opie and Anthony at least issued an apology, wherein they maintained that they do "take very seriously the responsibility that comes with our creative freedom and regret any offense that this segment has caused" -- a statement that's a lot funnier than most of their puerile on-air bits and skits.

Of course, when stupid people say stupid things, only stupid people are surprised. And it would be stupid to blame dopey Opie and Anthony -- not to mention the idiotic likes of Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Michael Smerconish, and John Gibson, who have their own issues with bigotry and hate speech targeting race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and ethnicity.

Moreover, targeting individuals does raise free speech and censorship concerns. Better to exercise our own free speech and purchasing power by telling and showing media companies and advertisers that encouragement of and complicity with such offensive remarks will hurt their bottom lines. CBS executives should know better, and if they don't get it yet, the best path to their collective corporate brain is clearly through their pocketbook.

At least some advertisers appear to get it. After deserting Imus, sponsors seem poised to do the same with Opie and Anthony -- and we should do our humble best to encourage them.

We can start by sending props out to representatives from both the New York State Lottery and to Trojan condoms for already announcing that they will no longer advertise on the CBS version of the "Opie & Anthony" show.

"The Trojan brand is committed to advancing the sexual health of those who choose to be sexually active," James Daniels, vice president of marketing for Trojan condoms, a division of the Church & Dwight Co., said in a statement. "The recent comments made on the Opie & Anthony show are inconsistent with that commitment." (A representative from the New York State Lottery said that it had already discontinued its ads on the show on May 4, after a comedian who is a regular guest could be heard asking, "Would it be possible, could you whistle 'Singin' in the Rain' while I rape a girl?")

Let's continue by pressing all the other advertisers on all Opie and Anthony programs to withdraw their support -- or face consumer boycotts of their products until they do so. Maybe then advertisers and broadcasters like CBS will finally get the message that racism, sexism, and homophobia isn't acceptable "entertainment."

And while we're at it, let's press the FCC to take a long, hard look at plans for XM Satellite radio to merge with its sole competitor, Sirius satellite radio. The only two satellite radio networks have been attempting to seal a deal under antitrust scrutiny, which may just have become a bit more difficult.

Before the Rice rape flap, the biggest potential roadblock for the merger was a 1997 Federal Communications Commission ruling that a single owner may not control the subscriber-only satellite radio business. But Sirius chief executive Mel Karmazin says the advance of new technologies offering so much music, news and talk has radically altered the competitive climate and the FCC should waive the rule. The merger, Karmazin argues, would actually benefit consumers by letting them access both companies' services at a lower price.

Karmazin is slated to become CEO of the merger between Sirius and XM if and when the two become one company. Guess what major broadcasting company he ran prior to taking over Sirius?

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