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Add Opie & Anthony to the growing list of shock jocks who have behaved badly enough to warrant silencing. 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 raised the ire of listeners May 9 when they broadcast 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.
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” comment, 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.
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