shock jocks acting… shocking

It’s not surprising to me that shock jocks behave badly. This is a capitalist society, and as long as we (collectively) create a market for shock jocks, people like Opie and Anthony will continue to push the envelope, just like car companies will continue to build SUVs as long as there are suburban yuppies who want to buy them. To a certain extent, we have no one but ourselves to blame for the Imuses and Opie & Anthonies of the world.

It’s a little surprising that DC-based XM, which is not subject to FCC regulations, suspended Opie and Anthony. But hey, if I owned a broadcasting company and my on-air talent made jokes about how fun it would be to watch the look of “horror” on a woman’s face as she’s being raped, I’d fire their asses. Like, before the end of the show. Without apology. Not because they don’t have a First Amendment right to say it, but because their rights do not require me to provide salaries or studio space for them while they do. And because their rights do not require their employer to lose ad money or subscriber revenue in the name of “Creative Freedom.”

So I think Jim Treacher is full of shit when he calls it “censorship”. It’s not censorship; it’s capitalism. (Comedy Central has an agreement with Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of “South Park” that’s at least honest about it. They can do whatever they want, but Comedy Central will show episodes in advance to advertisers. If the advertisers stay in, the show airs. If they want to pull their ads, the show doesn’t.)

It’s worth noting that the terrestrial radio version of the Opie & Anthony show has lost advertising from none other than Trojan condoms over this incident. How tasteless do you have to be when the company who gave us the “Trojan Man” commercials decides you’re bad for its image?

35 Comments so far

  1. Jim Treacher (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 12:26 am

    I never called it censorship. But now that you mention it, that’s effectively what it is.

  2. Jim Treacher (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 12:30 am

    I mean, do TV networks have “not-censors”?

  3. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 9:12 am

    It’s not censorship, Jim. Speech sometimes has consequences, and sometimes those consequences are that you get your giant megaphone taken away. This is one of those times.

  4. Tiffany (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 9:34 am

    I’m sure Opie & Anthony would develop quite a following in Internet radio. The best part would be that they could self-fund it and not worry about their corporate overlords.

    In the meantime, XM will experience whatever consequences to their business there will be as a result of the action. Maybe people will cancel their subscriptions, maybe they won’t. Speech has consequences, and so do business decisions, and it’s a little disingenuous for O&A to complain about suffering the natural consequences of actions they freely chose.

  5. Jim Treacher (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 9:54 am

    “Speech sometimes has consequences, and sometimes those consequences are that you get your giant megaphone taken away…”

    …and the company loses a ton of subscribers.

  6. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 9:57 am

    Meh, I’ll bet they’ll lose a dozen subscribers. XM’s product community is more than just the dedicated asshats who listen to O&A slinging their brand of entertainment. XM also has the baseball community, also has the Bob Edwards show, the Bob Dylan Themetime Radio Hour, and several other personality-based products.

    It’s sooooo not censorship Jim. You just don’t get it.

  7. Tiffany (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 10:00 am

    …or they find out that there’s not as big of a market for that kind of stuff as they thought there was and they don’t lose that many subscribers after all.

    Either way, it’s a business decision that is XM’s to make. They have no particular moral obligation to keep O&A on the air if they decide that’s not the kind of business they want to be doing. And if O&A are really that popular with the masses, then they don’t particularly need XM, either.

  8. Jim Treacher (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 10:02 am

    “Meh, I’ll bet they’ll lose a dozen subscribers.”

    I’m hearing a few more than that. People were on hold with customer service for up to 2 hours yesterday.

    It’s not technically censorship because it’s not the government doing it, yes, I get it. But in a way it’s worse, because at least our elected officials are just that: elected. I don’t remember voting for Drudge or Sharpton.

    O&A’s XM show was advertised as “uncensored.” I guess they were using your definition.

  9. Jim Treacher (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 10:04 am

    Yes, I’m sure it was a moral choice. I get the feeling we’re going to be seeing a lot more “moral choices” in the near future.

  10. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 10:24 am

    XM *is* Uncensored, so long as you’re not an asshat and talk about the look of horror on Condi’s face as she’s getting *raped*.

    There’s such a thing as beyond the pale, even for so-called censorship-free zones. I’m not following Drudge or Sharpton here, either, nor do I think anyone should, but it’s fairly clear that these guys went too far, and then couldn’t really apologize about it.

  11. Jim Treacher (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 3:31 pm

    You guys have shown me the light. This is entirely about a few radio guys who said stuff you don’t like, and this trend will stop with O&A. Nobody else in radio, TV, or any other form of media will ever have to worry about saying something to draw this sort of campaign down on them. There is no blood in the water.

  12. Don (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 3:43 pm

    Who exactly are you arguing with here Jim? Tiff said it’s not censorship, not that it should or shouldn’t have happened. They’re off because XM was afraid of losing money, either with direct advertising on that show or in other areas.

    Sorry you don’t like XM following where they think the dollars are, but you’re putting words in Tiff’s mouth.

  13. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 4:05 pm

    Jim, the sarcasm in your last post is pooling somewhere around the footer, and I appreciate some straightforward tone in your comments here. Sarcasm is a bitch to scrape out.

    Anyhow, if you really think that media personalities shouldn’t have to have responsibility for those words, and that they should have free reign to say whatever they please without repercussion, that’s fine, you can argue that. But you have to accept that if someone with a megaphone, like XM in this case, says something pretty damned offensive, there’s gonna be backlash against the people providing the Megaphone.

  14. Don (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 4:28 pm

    After looking at Jim’s site I think I have a better idea what he’s saying here, albeit not very clearly. His gripe is that groups of people are making a big deal out of statements being made by performers and pushing broadcasters to dump them.

    That’s fair enough and I don’t think a lot of it either. Getting upset over boobs like Imus or O&A is about as productive as being angry at the wind for blowing. It’s what they do and it’s what their listeners tune in to hear them do.

    However they’re free to be offended by things, even if it would be smarter just to ignore things they know they’re not going to like. They’re also free to tell advertisers that they find it so obnoxious that simply associating with them turns them off their product. I think railing against that is just silly – the whole point of advertising is to sway someone’s opinion, and if it’s fair for advertisers to try to court us it’s fair for us to tell them the things they do that turn us off.

    If you really believe this is an inappropriate chilling effect, Jim, you couldn’t possibly be picking a less effective tactic than to grump at us or even the people who are doing the bitching to the advertisers. You’re not going to convince me that capitalism and companies going after the big pot of cash is wrong. You’re not going to convince the people bitching about ‘offensiveness’ to the advertisers that they’re wrong. Even complaining to XM is of dubious value.

    If you want to fight this tactic you need to form effective opposition, and that means meeting folks like Breitbart on the correct battlefield: tell the advertisers that you find their pulling out to be repugnant. Offset their calls for sanctions with your own calls for restraint.

    As it is you’re basically standing in Wal-Mart yelling at the cashier over the company purchasing goods manufactured in China. Maybe it makes you feel better but it’s not going to help you get your way.

  15. Tiffany (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 4:40 pm

    A few truths:
    1. People have the absolute right to say whatever they want. (subject to the usual caveats about libel, “Fire!” in a crowded theater, yada yada)
    2. Advertisers have the absolute right to decide what kind of speech they do and do not want to be associated with.
    3. Broadcasting companies have an absolute right to decide who they will and will not provide airtime to.
    4. Consumers have the absolute right to turn off their radios if they hear something they don’t like, but they ALSO have the right to call a broadcaster and say, “Hey, I thought that show was over the line, and I want you and your advertisers to know that I won’t be listening to it anymore.”
    5. They also have the right to bitch about it publically. Even Drudge and Sharpton. They couldn’t get any traction with it if there weren’t a critical mass of people who agreed with them.

    Me? I thought the Condi Rice comment was ridiculously, needlessly offensive to women everywhere, but I don’t listen to the show to begin with because I don’t like to fill my commute with the rantings of people who think it would be fun to violate me. I don’t have a dog in this fight.

    I’m just saying, if XM thought it would be bad for business, then they were in the right with their decision. Businesses do what makes them money, and anyone who feels a “chilling effect” over this should consider getting a damn website.

  16. Don (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 4:48 pm

    I get the sense that Jim prefers to rant about this on DailyGut and get all the “you tell em” comments from supporters and come to places like this and tell us all how we just don’t get it rather than actually, you know, do something.

  17. Jim Treacher (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 6:09 pm

    “Sorry you don’t like XM following where they think the dollars are, but you’re putting words in Tiff’s mouth.”

    I only meant them to go into Tom’s. (Story of my life!) Sorry, Tiff.

    Look, XM hired them to do this kind of stuff. That particular segment was not unusual for the show. They’ve been doing it for almost 3 years now. But all of a sudden it’s a problem? I’m not going along with it, sorry. Somebody at the Daily Kos (not one of my regular hangouts) put it best: Of course people have the right to assemble in protest over things they don’t like. How about volunteering not to? How about minding your own business? If that kind of show isn’t for you, fine. I don’t tell anybody else not to watch, I dunno, Grey’s Anatomy or whatever blight on the public consciousness you want to name. I just don’t consume it.

    And Don, if you think the commenters at the Daily Gut always agree with me… Hoo boy. Not exactly.

  18. Jim Treacher (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 6:11 pm

    “If you really believe this is an inappropriate chilling effect, Jim, you couldn’t possibly be picking a less effective tactic than to grump at us or even the people who are doing the bitching to the advertisers.”

    I’m just leaving a blog comment about an issue I’m interested in. I didn’t focus-group it first, I’m just having a conversation.

  19. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 10:32 pm

    Jim, let me ask you a simple question:

    Is the segment in question from the O&A show inoffensive to you?

  20. Jim Treacher (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 11:37 pm

    I didn’t particularly like the part about Condi (although I thought Charlie had a couple of other good lines). But I’ve been listening to their XM show for a couple of years, and none of it was inconsistent with what XM’s been paying them to do on a daily basis. XM’s director of programming has said that O&A are the most popular original programming on the platform, and that kind of stuff is what the subscribers are paying to hear.

    Why do you ask? Please don’t tell me that I’m infriging on anybody’s right to be offended, because I’m not. Be as offended as you want. Just don’t expect me to be.

  21. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on May 17th, 2007 @ 8:14 am

    I was honestly curious, actually.

    I’m pretty hard to offend. It takes an awful lot for me to get upset enough to start making phone calls. But I know that my standards don’t match anyone else’s, and that if folks get upset, they have every right to DO something about it.

    They have every right to call XM and say “That was over the line.” and place it in XM’s hands to either do something, or to not. I don’t think it’s a ‘chilling effect’ when they do, either.

    Now, if you want to say they’re trying to impose their own morality on others, fine, you can do that. But I think they do get to attempt to impose a basic level of decorum in the public airwaves, pay service or not.

  22. mel (unregistered) on May 17th, 2007 @ 10:40 am

    For the curious….As a woman, who actually was raped, I was not at all offended by the comments made by the GUEST on the opie and anthony show. If you listened to them regularly you would know that this comment was pretty tame compared to other “bits” they do.

    The biggest issue here is that XM advertises the O&A show as:

    “beware, this is radio like you’ve never heard it before. Irreverent, uncensored, so good you won’t want to stop listening. It’s outrageous radio from Opie & Anthony, weekday mornings beginning at 6AM ET and continuing to Noon ET. It’s 6 hours of cringe radio at its finest.”

    You can’t advertise it this way and than require them to act a completely different way. I bought a subscription to XM to get “uncut, uncensored, outrageous, uninhibited talk”. That’s not what I’m getting and because of that I canceled both my subscriptions to XM.

    So, Trojan dropped off the FreeFM side. They clearly don’t get it. That’s their right. But you failed to mention that, and all pulled their sponsorship from XM Radio and I am pretty sure their will be more following their lead.

  23. Jim Treacher (unregistered) on May 17th, 2007 @ 4:33 pm

    “…if folks get upset, they have every right to DO something about it.”

    But if they’re not subscribers, if they’re not paying to hear it, their complaints shouldn’t hold as much weight as the opinions of the people who do. And I sincerely doubt that most of the people complaining have ever listened to anything but that one 60-second clip Breitbart put up (if they’ve even listened to that), or they’d have been complaining a long time ago.

    “Now, if you want to say they’re trying to impose their own morality on others, fine, you can do that.”

    Thank you for allowing me to make a self-evidently true statement.

    “But I think they do get to attempt to impose a basic level of decorum in the public airwaves, pay service or not.”

    And if they’re not actually paying for it, or advertising on it, XM gets to not care. Which is what they should have done, said “Thanks for you opinion, have a nice day.”

  24. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on May 17th, 2007 @ 5:06 pm

    Jim, so does that mean that just because I’m not a member of the country club that puts on the Masters golf tournament, I can’t call them a bunch of misogynists because they don’t admit women?

    Because I’m pretty sure that’s not the case :)

  25. Jim Treacher (unregistered) on May 17th, 2007 @ 6:58 pm

    You can call them whatever you want. It doesn’t mean they have to pay you any mind. That seems to be a fundamental point you can’t comprehend.

  26. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on May 17th, 2007 @ 7:34 pm

    And neither does XM, but if they do… You can’t get upset.

  27. Jim Treacher (unregistered) on May 17th, 2007 @ 8:42 pm

    Sure I can. And I can cancel my subscription. They don’t have to listen to me, but I don’t have to keep paying them.

  28. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on May 17th, 2007 @ 11:26 pm

    And you’re welcome to do so, Jim! Fortunately, they’re month to month for most of us.

    Of course, me, I’ll keep it for Ethel and Fred and Lucy and all the baseball I can stand. And then some.

  29. Jim Treacher (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 7:00 am

    “And you’re welcome to do so, Jim!”


  30. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 7:47 am

    No one was ever criticising you for cancelling your subscription because of XM’s choices, Jim. No one was ever saying you had to stay with them til your dying day. All we were saying is that there are consequences for speech. I realize you want everyone to be free to say whatever the heck they want, whenever they heck they feel like it, but sometimes, that’s just not how the world works. You say it’s fun to rape condi rice, and you’re gonna get a world of hurt put down upon you. How are you remotely shocked by that?

  31. Jim Treacher (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 10:57 am

    Because they’ve said worse. A lot worse. And XM was fine with it for years. The difference is that this time somebody took it out of context and put it on the Internet. I think I’ve explained all this already, haven’t I?

  32. Jim Treacher (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 11:00 am

    I just don’t buy the “There are some things you should never ever joke about, ever ever ever” theory. Philosophical differences, I guess.

  33. Tiff (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 12:36 pm

    As a stand-up comedian, I don’t buy that “some things should never be joked about” line either. HOWEVER, I do ALSO understand that some things can’t be joked about by certain groups (and in fact will get you booed off the stage).

    As a result, a couple of white male knuckleheads joking about what fun it would be to rape a black woman (and while the joke was started by the guest, Mel, O&A sure continued it) is about as funny and inoffensive as a couple of white male knuckleheads joking about how much fun it would be to string up that n—er down the street.

    The rule is that members of the historically privileged group can’t get away with joking about the same stuff their ancestors used to oppress people with. Is it fair? Maybe not. But it’s reality. Only a rare comedic talent can get away with it (and even they sometimes can’t- cf. Michael Richards).

    And Opie and Anthony aren’t rare comedic talents. That doesn’t negate their free speech rights, but it does mean some of the crap they think is funny just might end up not being.

  34. Don (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 1:09 pm

    Have they really said worse about one of the highest ranked women in the US Government?

    I just can’t get too upset about someone taking the clip and putting it on the internet to grind their axe since that’s just another reflection of how so many people are capable of getting their message out there. This message is “I’m offended” which I agree with you, is pretty pointless. Change the station, vote with your dollar.

    But they’re putting their position out there. I think the only villain, to the extent that there is one, is XM. And really, their primary offense here is making the judgment that the negative impact of not sanctioning O&A is worse than the impact of sanctioning them.

    I honestly have no idea if they’re right. Are there more people now who think “rape isn’t funny” so strongly that they’ll have a bigger impact on the bottom line than the people who feel O&A shouldn’t have been sanctioned? Who’s got a longer memory? Who’s got deeper pockets? They’re apparently going to figure it out, with subscribers canceling and advertisers pulling out.

    I still agree with Tiff, however, and think that “this is just the beginning” is ominous in a deceptive way. If it’s the beginning of any movement, is it so not because of people making a ruckus but because corporations do their political triangulating and decide one course is more overall profitable than another.

  35. Jim Treacher (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 2:32 pm

    “Have they really said worse about one of the highest ranked women in the US Government?”

    They’ve said worse about everybody you can think of. (Including themselves!) And why should she be off-limits anyway? It’s not like they threatened her life. They laughed at a homeless man’s demented fantasies.

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