Cloudy Channel

Cloudy Channel
: Two more Stern-related notes for the day:

: Clear Channel has hired Michael Savage, last seen wishing people to get AIDS and die on MSNBC. I’d actually have no problem with that — free speech for all — except it sure is odd that one shock jock is OK and others are not.

: Stern also played clips from the new Jason Seagrove show in which they took live phone calls — without a delay — and in one call after another, two of the seven dirty words were used. So why is he still on the air? What happened to zero tolerance? Where’s the FCC fine?

Stern is merely Clear Channel’s sacrifical lamb to Congress — or political offering to Bush.

: MORE: Jeff Sharlet, of the wonderful new NYU religion blog The Revealer (which — like others — I have neglected to get into my blogroll and for that, father, I am eternally sorry and beg your forgiveness) writes in the comments below about Clear Channel:

Stern is a sacrificial lamb. I interviewed John Hogan, JC Watts (a member of CC’s board of directors) and a regional VP for a story about the company in Harper’s. All were emphatic that they let the “market” decide, that decency was something people could vote on with their radio dials. Now it appears they don’t even have the courage of this spineless conviction. But why should they? They are businessmen through and through, as they are fond of boasting; their move against Stern is simply an acknowledgement that in their view of the free market some consumers (the Christian right, at the moment) are more equal than others.

  • This is part of a pattern of getting rid of anti-institutional media product (such as the moveon ad) in the ostensible name of broadcast standards (which are iselectively applied), when really, this is just a case where the autocratic tendencies of the religious right has met the autocratic tendencies of property rights absolutists. And the casualty is limits on free speech.

  • paladin

    Well, all rightee, then, if it’s the “Christian right” oppressing the talented and popular Howard Stern, he should be able to get on the new Al Franken liberal radio network. We all know the left doesn’t suppress “free speech”.

  • Mike G

    Gee, firing an expensive guy whose hottest years are probably behind him while keeping younger cheaper guys with more potential? Whoever heard of that happening in America! Maybe Louis Rukeyser could cover it…

  • mobyjane

    If all else fails, Howard can always accuse George Bush of kidnapping him.

  • Charlie (Colorado)

    … political offering to Bush.
    Jesus, Jeff, get a grip. Its not Bush’s fault! It’s not Bush appointees! Its not even mostly Republicans!
    You even keep agreeing with this!
    Why does it keep coming back? Is it Versed? Are you having trouble forming long-term memories?

  • submandave

    Charlie is on spot. I haven’t heard Bush say “boo” about Stern or “cleaning up the airwaves,” but those are hot topics with many in Congress from both sides of the aisle. The chain of events is clear on this latest boogey man: Janet exposes – lots of folks get pissed and write their Congressmen – said Congressmen, in response to constituency, instigate decency hearings – CC does a cost/benefit analysis and determines it would rather brook favor with Congress than keep Stern. Damn, sounds like the government representing the people. If there were as many or more yelling about censorship guess which way the wind would blow in the Capital. But blaming Bush makes about as much sense as blaming Eisenhower for the McCarthy hearings.

  • HH

    Clear Channel didn’t so much “hire” Savage as put him on one of their many radio stations. And Savage is arguably more dangerous to Bush than Stern. Scratch that, he IS more dangerous to Bush than Stern. If and when a Pat Buchanan type announces, he will tell his audience to dump Bush and vote for him.

  • Yeah, Savage also jumped from Disney owned KSFO where he got his start in San Francisco to a new Clear Channel owned right wing talk station (which had formerly been CNET Radio) last year.
    I haven’t listened to Savage since last fall and haven’t heard if he’s made any comments on Clear Channel and Stern, but Savage did rail against MSNBC when they dumped him.
    And the stuff Savage spews makes Stern seem mild.
    There’s a good look at Savage linked from here (you’ll probably have to scroll down a bit – the article is called Radio Rat Poison).

  • weimdog

    Stern should be taking Kerry to the woodshed tomorrow, but I doubt it –
    “Howard Stern does have the right to say whatever he wants anywhere, but he doesn’t necessarily have the right to say it on that station if the people who run the station don’t want him to,” Kerry said while campaigning in New York, where Stern’s show is broadcast.
    A questioner at the town hall meeting in Brooklyn asked Kerry to stand up for Stern’s right to say what he wants because the Republican-led government is repressing his right to free speech.

  • nc

    I enjoy your blog, but with due respect you are out to lunch on this issue. When we used to get Howard Stern in Charlotte, I enjoyed listening to his show, but the local station dropped him when they could not afford him. Similarly, Clear Channel made a business decision that the economic benefit of keeping Stern did not outweigh the political heat they are facing from Congress on a host of issues, not just the content of Stern’s program. Last I checked, companies in America had the right to decide what products and services they would offer to consumers.
    Stern still broadcasts, Bush’s jackbooted thugs have yet to take him off the air. I can find Stern’s books and his movie at and other fine establishments. So your evidence that the Bush administration is censoring Howard Stern is, well, non-existent.
    I am fairly comfortable that Mr. Stern’s First Amendment rights have not been violated.
    That having been said, I am sympathetic to your point that people should have the right to listen to Stern and if they don’t like Stern they should exercise their right to change the channel, but, we don’t have a right to force a radio station to carry Stern.

  • Stan

    Howard Stern doesn’t deserve first ammendment rights. Go back and read the original consititution. It doesn’t say in there anywehre that shock jocks who promote prostitution and sexposurism can use the public — PUBLIC!! — airwaves for their filth, trash, and filth. Clear Channel once again is doing the right thing — just like they did after we went to war in Iraq with the Dixie Chicks.

  • the clips Howard played this morning where his callers dropped the obscenities were of Ryan Seacrest.
    which means if you’re a host for American Idol and your callers say one of the 7 “dirty” words: no fine, no public warning, no nothing
    if you wish people to die of AIDS: no fine, no warning
    if your name is Howard Stern: yanked off six stations.
    oh, and if your name is Rush you can admit to being on drugs while on the job and thats cool too.

  • Those who reluctantly defend Clear Channel on the grounds that they have the right to fire Stern miss the point. Of course they have the right. Clear Channel rarely breaks the law, because they don’t have to — the law has been stacked in the favor of radio consolidation for decades — perhaps since the FCC was created as a cave-in to big broadcasters. Where do I get this idea? Al Franken’s liberal radio network? Hardly — I heard it from Clear Channel employees proud of their company, and I heard it from two FCC commissioners, Adelstein and Copps.
    Clear Channel is practicing sleight-of-hand maneuvers — legal, probably lucrative, but hardly admirable. Just because a company has a right to play righteous with one hand (canning Stern) while collecting money for trash with the other (one needn’t turn to Savage for evidence; any number of Clear Channel air personalities are fond of racial slurs) doesn’t mean we should fail to condemn them for it.

  • Ed

    I see!
    So, a company in fear of loosing market share (read ad revenue) changing their format is censorship is it?
    No, I think if most people want to hear Stern then someone else in the area will pick him up.
    Boycotts by the “religous right” or any other group (see PETA, etc.) don’t seem to generate much result. If a for profit enterprise sees profit potential then they will carry Howard. If not, …..

  • Mara

    Jeff –
    Did a little research. With the exception of Louisville, all the Clear Channel markets that took Stern off the air have one or more Infinity owned radio stations as competition. If the market supports Stern, I’m sure Infinity will be happy to put him on one of their own stations and take bad those ad dollars.
    As for blaming President Bush, Glenn Reynolds had a post from a reporter who regularly covers the FCC here:
    Last time I checked, Ed Markey, Fritz Hollings, Michael Copps were all Democrats and Fred Upton was the only Republican pushing this.
    Again, I like Stern and think Clear Channel completely overreacted but with Kerry supporting Clear Channel’s choices here as well, if this going to be your big issue in the fall, will you be supporting Harry Browne?

  • Jerry

    Time to move on from Howard Stern. Let’s talk about Larry Flynt and how he’s made the world better for women and wankers.

  • Greg

    Last I checked, ClearChannel was a private corporation. Gee-whiz, they can do what they want? It must be the work of the Bush/Religious Right conspiracy! Stern will always have plenty of work. Give me a friggin-boo-hoo break.

  • Nobody has disputed Clear Channel’s right to do what they want. And only the ill-informed accuse them of censorship. And, I, for one, certainly don’t see Clear Channel as a Republican/Democrat issue. J.C. Watts, former 4th ranking House Republican, replaced Democrat deal broker Vernon Jordan, indicative of a cynicism of race much deeper than party politics.
    Rather, Clear Channel is doing what corporations do when unchecked by regulation and given free rein by consumers who believe they are obliged to eat what they’re fed.
    Clear Channel should not be an electoral issue (as the Stern case illustrates, given that his listeners are not easily categorized as “liberal” or “conservative”). It should be a general issue for those who understand that although it is a private corporation, it operates with a massive taxpayer subsidy in the form of cheap public airwaves. Therefore, we all have a say in what Clear Channel does.

  • John

    If Howard Stern’s New York-based radio station was owned by Clear Channel and his show syndicated by CC, odds are that (as was the case with Limbaugh’s fall problems) the folks at CC would look at the money coming in as opposed to the money they were paying out to run Stern on those six stations and would have kept him on.
    On the other hand, looking at what Infinity did with their NYC afternoon shock jocks, Opie & Anthony, when a radio stunt they pulled resulted in two people engaging in sex in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, if they were the ones paying to run Howard on their stations around the country and had a chance to offer him up as a sacrifice in the post-Janet climate, they would have dropped him faster than you can say Mel Karmazan.
    It all comes down to cost/benefit decisions by the execs and their bean counters. The top management of Walt Disney company (well, at least for now — see Jeff’s above thread) is considered politically liberal and supportive of Democratic candidates. But if you look at their key 50,000 watt stations across the country — WABC in New York, WJR in Detroit, WLS in Chicago, WBAP in Dallas-Fort Worth and others — their lineups are anchored by people like Rush Limbauigh or Sean Hannity, because Disney/ABC perceives that’s where the money is.
    The exception is in — surprise! — San Francisco. There, Disney/ABC runs two talk radio stations, KSFO, which broadcasts the standard conservative shows, and KGO, which is probably the most successful liberal talk radio station in the country. Why there and nowhere else — because Disney thinks in other parts of the country where they have two or three major AM stations, they can do better on those stations financially broascasting either ESPN Radio and/or Radio Disney.
    Stern’s celebrity in this climate makes him the one Clear Channel did in for financial reasons. While they may never put him back on their stations in those six cities, after all this cools off and if CC sees some bucks to be had, they’ll either find some other less-well-known and cheaper shock jock to put on the air or might even put Howard on some of their stations outside of those six markets.

  • “They are businessmen through and through, as they are fond of boasting;”
    Ok, let me see if I understand this. Businessmen, who are in business to make money, should act like non-businessmen in order to allow someone like Stern broadcast his schtick, and in the process, lose money because people won’t listen to Stern’s schtick anymore.
    Or, perhaps, they have made a mistake and will lose money because they took Stern off the air.
    I love it when people castigate business men/women for making money. Sheesh!

  • Odd you should mention Savage. I normally don’t listen to the guy, but I was channel surfing the car radio today, and came across his show. One of his callers started blatting exactly that: That AIDs was God’s curse on homosexuals. And Savage said, “No, no, no, get this guy off my air, that’s wrong, wrong.” And cut him off.
    Either he learned one lesson, or else his claims that he was taken out of contexts and/or misinterpteted vis his tv show are more right than wrong.
    Hard to tell. He still won’t be on my must-listen list.

  • “Stern is a sacrificial lamb.” Oh yeah.
    PS: say, Tone, how about if a really cute starlet who was a member of the Democratic party came on teevee or radio and admitted to using drugs; would she get to keep her career? Not a Limbaugh fan, just wondering.

  • shark

    Stern is merely Clear Channel’s sacrifical lamb to Congress
    So what? Business decison, pure and simple.