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Add Opie & Anthony to the growing list of shock jocks who have behaved badly enough to warrant silencing. But at least the duo has the distinction of being the first to be bounced from satellite radio, where government rules restricting raunchy content do not apply.
In an ironic twist, XM Satellite Radio said Tuesday that it has suspended “The Opie & Anthony Show” for 30 days, though the pair will still do their program on CBS Radio, where speech codes are far more stringent than they are on pay radio.
Greg “Opie” Hughes and Anthony Cumia first raised the ire of listeners when they broadcast May 9 the rantings of a character they call Homeless Charlie, who fantasized about having violent sex with Laura Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Queen Elizabeth II.
They apologized two days later, but on Monday they called on their competitors — most notably, Howard Stern — to join them in defense of the right of shock jocks everywhere to be, well, shocking.
“Are you with us or against us?” they asked, referencing such recently fired radio talkers as Don Imus and “JV and Elvis.” Then they told listeners that while they didn’t have the FCC restricting their language, they still must follow XM’s “dumb rules.” That apparently was too much for XM to take.
“Comments made by Opie & Anthony on yesterday’s broadcast put into question whether they appreciate the seriousness of the matter,” XM said Tuesday in announcing their suspension.
The pair’s Homeless Charlie bit came at a particularly thorny time as XM is trying to get permission to merge with Sirius Satellite Radio. Some on Wall Street predicted last week that XM eventually would have to punish Opie & Anthony if for no other reason than to curry favor among lawmakers, who are deciding whether to give the proposed merger the thumbs up.
Others are using the travails of the nation’s shock jocks to make a stealth appeal for the resurrection of the Fairness Doctrine.
Several Democrats in Congress have been citing comments made by Opie, Anthony, Imus, JV and Elvis as proof that discourse on radio is so coarse that more government regulation — by way of a new Fairness Doctrine — is needed.
But the aim of the Fairness Doctrine, abolished in 1987, was basically to guarantee that broadcast licensees carried as much left-leaning political opinion as they did right-leaning opinion and had little to do with the vulgarity of shock jocks.
Such stars of talk radio as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have been suggesting that Democrats — including presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich — who attack shock jocks are laying the groundwork for introducing stricter regulation of talk radio, a medium dominated by conservatives.
Radio talker Glenn Beck broached the subject Monday on CNN, telling an audience that liberal activists are “trying to shut people down. If you look at the people that are on the shock-radio list, you will see that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and I am on that list. Gee, I don’t know the last time that I was doing sex calls.”
Some activists already have called for the sanctioning of Limbaugh for his “Barack the Magic Negro” parody song sung to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon.” The song quotes from a Los Angeles Times opinion piece that called Barack Obama a “magic negro” for his ability to attract voters of all races.
Opie & Anthony’s gaffe is the latest in a string of examples whereby offensive utterances made on radio find their way to the Internet blogosphere — most notably onto the Drudge Report — then are dissected by TV news broadcasters, who turn the comments into a national debate.
The now-infamous remarks made April 4 by Imus, for example, created a media firestorm that culminated in a Time magazine cover story and the canceling of his CBS Radio show and MSNBC TV simulcast.
More recently, Jeff Vandergrift and Dan Lay, known as JV and Elvis, were fired, again by CBS, for a segment that mocked Chinese restaurant employees for their English-language skills. Although that bit aired one day after Imus’ “nappy headed hos” commentary, it didn’t receive nearly as much scrutiny, and CBS didn’t fire JV and Elvis until Friday.
Opie & Anthony have a unique arrangement in radio, broadcasting a portion of their show on CBS and XM and another portion — deemed too controversial for free radio — on XM exclusively. CBS said Tuesday that it has no plans for taking the pair off the air.
Stern, a longtime Opie & Anthony nemesis whose Sirius Satellite Radio show is far too raunchy for free radio, said publicly after Opie and Anthony signed their XM-CBS hybrid deal, “I can’t imagine how difficult their job is going to be — having to go on regular radio and deal with CBS since their act is edgy.”
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