Monday, March 9, 2009

1st Amendment & Radio

In the early days of the radio, the FCC didn't have to regulate much because of the large presence of self censorship. The FCC did not really have a problem with radio until it came to the 1960's when rock bands started pushing the envelope if you will. Sexual content and profanity started to show up in these songs and the FCC had to step in and set limits to what could be broadcast. Then again in the 70's, the FCC was pushed further with George Carlin's "7 Dirty Words" broadcast that brought quite an up rise. One of the more prominent events of this time involved Tipper Gore, Al Gore's wife. She lead a group pushing for the requirement of a warning label on explicit material. With all good evolution, things have come anther step further with the rise of the "shock jocks."

One of the most widely known of the shock jocks is one, Howard Stern. A shock jocks material consist of material that most steer away from, for multiple reasons, controversial, possible/likely fining by the FCC, in fact when Howard Stern was with a company known as Infinity, he accumulated fines upwards of 1.2 million dollars, for failure to restrain Mr. Stern. Now if you like the material or not, the numbers don't lie, when Howard Stern worked for CBS he had three main advertisers, Anheuser -- Busch, Cingular, and Toyota, when Mr. Stern was fired from CBS after his broadcast entitled "Beastiality Dial-A-Date," he took all three advertisers with him to Infinity, even after the companies were pleaded with to stop their loyalty to this shock jock. Then when you start factoring in the fact that, even though the FCC has some hefty fines, they are outweighed by the profit coming in from the station. After Mr. Stern left CBS, the 1st quarter revenue slipped by six percent and operating income fell fourteen percent. Ratings dropped from first within adult males 18-34 to fourteenth, and first with adult males 25-54 to seventeenth, now even if you don't agree with the topics that this man, and others like him, discuss, they are bringing in lots of listeners and money.

Now days Howard Stern has found a new venue, satellite radio, currently there are not restrictions on shock jocks here, this means more revenue for the radio station and less hassle with the FCC. Howard Stern was also offered the largest contract for a radio broadcaster through Sirus, the satellite company that originally brought in Mr. Stern, but has since merged with XM Radio, the only other competitor. Even with this merger, this alliance is just shy of filing for bankruptcy, which may make you wounder what will happen to Howard Stern if that happens, we can only wait and see. One thing is for sure though, if the FCC wishes to get a tighter grip on what is being broadcast over the airwaves, they need to have punishments that are more savvier than what is in place now.

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