It didn't take Howard Stern long to take advantage of the lack of federal oversight on satellite radio broadcasts to utter the f-word. While I wasn't listening myself, reports of his "right off the bat" expletive are all over the internet. Of course today was his first day on the Sirius satellite after many years of pandering to the masses interested in sleaze on the airwaves of broadcast radio.
I hate to talk about Stern, even to the smallish audience of my blog, because every time somebody mentions his name, his cash register rings. And I don't want to be a party to that. Stern has been the "anti-Christ" to my vision of what a good broadcaster should be for as long as I can remember. But give the guy credit for finding a way to make radio pay off in a big way for himself. He has always been about shock and money. And there will always be those who run broadcasting facilities who will give someone like him a chance to make a fool of himself in order to guarantee a revenue stream.
If someone wants to pay the $13 monthly fee to Sirius for the opportunity to hear Stern talk about body parts, downgrade guests (particularly women), and use the f-word every other sentence, well I guess that's their prerogative. I suppose listening to Stern while watching porn, drinking a morning beer, and thumbing through a Penthouse is attractive to a sizeable audience. I thought people stopped giggling at that kind of stuff around their eighteenth birthday, but perhaps I overestimate the intelligence of the population.
It seems like the effort to make money by dumbing down the world will always be there in one form or another. I have long expected this kind of radio to eventually become passe'. But, it seems that each time someone graduates from the Stern show to a less juvenile radio diet, another person or two succumbs to the attraction of the "dark side". Make no mistake about it, Stern attempts to portray himself as someone providing a legitimate service to listeners, and as a "thinking man". But, from where I sit, it's all part of the act.
My question now is, how much, and how severe, of this kind of product will be tolerated on satellite until someone steps in and tries to stop it? I have to believe if Stern, and other shockers like him, start crossing over into actual behavior control of their audiences, and someone gets hurt in some way, that the issue is going to come up in Washington again. You know that one of the satellite jocks is going to try something that goes past the edge of the envelope some time soon.
George Takei, "Sulu" on Star Trek, now an announcer on the Stern show, said today "the revolution has begun". I believe that to be true. It takes someone of the magnitude and popularity of Stern on pay-radio to set the wheels in motion. But, which way will this new movement go? I believe the age-old censorship debate is about to start all over again. Probably sooner than later.