Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Politically Incorrect Icons of Yesteryear: "Shock Jocks"

By Tony Mazur

A lot of people feel that radio is dead. I don't believe the industry is dead, but the thought is not far off. Back in the day, radio show hosts were able to be creative and open-minded. Nowadays, they're a bunch of corporate zombies who read liner notes. There's no question that radio content (or lack of) forced listeners to purchase iPods and satellite radios.

A shock jock is a radio show host who gets a rise out of listeners by broadcasting politically incorrect content. They tend to push the envelope of decency, and have heard the phrase "you've gone too far" more times than they can count. Shock jocks receive much of their criticism from special interest groups who find their particular program offensive. This form of radio is not new. Disk jockeys have attempted to shock their audience since the beginning, most notably with Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" stunt.

Don Imus became somewhat of a pioneer when it comes to "shock jockery" back in the 1970s. Opie & Anthony have suffered through a couple of firings and a few fines, but they remain as "offensive" as ever. Perhaps the biggest shock jock of them all is Howard Stern. Howard has been fined more times than anyone for his suggestive content on his nationally syndicated program. He has since moved to Sirius Satellite Radio where there are no FCC guidelines to abide by.

This form of broadcasting had a run of 30+ years, beginning in the 1970s all the way until the early part of this decade. We all know where this is going. The Super Bowl XXXVIII Halftime show with Janet Jackson's exposed breast. I personally did not watch it live, and I really don't think two things about it. Anyways, in the wake of that fiasco, the FCC cracked down on "indecent programming". That means, if a show host broadcasts over-the-line content, they must be dealt with accordingly (fines, firings, license of station revoked).

Since then, the successful shock jocks of the past three decades have to look for new jobs. Some changed the entire outlook of their show. Others flocked to satellite or internet radio. Many just retired.

While special interest groups dance in the streets, radio has plummeted, mainly because the programming is garbage. Companies voice track DJs from other cities to make them sound local. Instead of a free-spirited morning show, jocks are forced to give weather and traffic reports, introduce pre-programmed songs, and give away junk prizes. All of that creativity isn't worth a damn in this business. As long as you play by the rules, you're buddy-buddy with the company.

The problem with radio is the fact that it's in every car, and each household owns about four radios total. Companies like Clear Channel and CBS think they can get away with terrible programming because radio will not go away.

Another issue regarding the demise of shock jocks is the fact that these "mighty and all powerful" broadcasting companies cater to the smallest of special interest groups. Not only CBS Radio, but MSNBC, a subsidiary of NBC, kowtowed to Al Sharpton and his insignificant group after Don Imus's "racist and sexist" remarks towards Rutgers' womens' basketball team.

Here's another thing to think about when it comes to shock jocks. They're all white. I've heard some offensive content on all-black stations, and the hosts openly admitted that they have a hatred toward white people. But shows like that are still on the air. Womens' shows spout off about how they are superior to men, but nothing is said. And why is that? Because big business is afraid of minorities and women for fear of being called bigoted. So they target white men who make jokes about pornography.

I salute those shock jocks who put their careers and the station's license at risk just to entertain their audience. Now that the content is horrendous, I look to other mediums to be entertained. I certainly hope radio executives can get it together and produce better programming, instead of hearing a jock from Tampa, Florida introduce the next Metallica song and tell me what the weather is like in my backyard.

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