Happy Anniversary, Rush

The man who helped create the market for conservative talk radio celebrates 19 years in the business today. Rush Limbaugh has changed broadcast radio history and continues to produce the most popular political talk show in America after all these years. He’s opened up doors for conservatives that had been shut tight before he appeared on the scene and transformed talk radio.
Besides that, he’s a good friend and a great guy. Thanks again, Rush, for all you do. Happy anniversary, and many more ahead, we hope. (via The Corner)

Petraeus On Hewitt

I hear that Hugh Hewitt will have a very special guest on today’s show: General David Petraeus. Hugh’s show starts at 6 pm ET/3 pm PT. While Hugh is always must-catch radio, be sure to clear your schedule for tonight.
While you’re at it, make sure to catch Rush right now. I’m certain that he will have some clear and concise words for the cigar-tax idiocy that the Democrats tried to quietly push through Congress. King Banaian notes that this looks very similar to the luxury tax that Democrats forced onto the Bush 41 administration, and reviews the fallout.

Talk Radio & The CAP Report

Since talk radio has become a hot topic in and of itself, Wednesday’s report from the Center for American Progress has become the center of the debate. I actually agree with the what looks to be the central argument of the report — liberal ideas require government intervention to force more than a few people to listen to them. At Heading Right, I look at the underlying assumptions the report makes in its attempt to impose government rationing of political speech in open markets, and why the demand for a new Fairness Doctrine is just another stalking horse to kill a market in which liberals have proven, thus far, uncompetitive.
UPDATE: Mark Levin notes that the author of CAP’s study, Paul “Woody” Woodhull, failed to disclose his professional and financial connections to two liberal syndicated radio show hosts, Bill Press and Ed Schultz. Can you say “conflict of interest”? I knew you could!

CQ Media Alert

At 8 pm CT, I’ll join Rob Breckenridge on his CHQR show, The World Tonight, to discuss — well, whatever Rob wants to discuss. I’ve been a guest on his show a number of times, and Rob is a terrific and generous host. If you’re not in Calgary, be sure to listen on the live Internet stream.
Don’t forget that I’ll also join James Joyner for his first Outside the Beltway BTR show at 6 pm CT! You can join that conversation by calling 646-716-7030.

XM Suspends Opie And Anthony

On Thursday, I wondered whether the controversial remarks on the XM Radio show “Opie and Anthony”, where the two shock jocks joined an in-studio guest in joking about raping Condoleezza Rice, would result in the same kind of sanctions against the hosts as Don Imus received for his idiotic remark about the womens’ basketball team at Rutgers. We have our answer now; XM has suspended the show for 30 days:

“XM Radio deplored the comments aired on “The Opie & Anthony Show” last week. At the time, the company strongly expressed its views to Opie and Anthony, and they issued an immediate apology,” the company said in the statement.
“Comments made by Opie and Anthony on yesterday’s broadcast put into question whether they appreciate the seriousness of the matter. The management of XM Radio decided to suspend Opie and Anthony to make clear that our that our on-air talent must take seriously the responsibility that creative freedom requires of them,” the company added.

CNN’s Paul La Monica appears to disagree with the decision:

It just goes to show that even for satellite radio, where hosts can curse and use other objectionable language since they are not being broadcast on free “terrestrial” radio, racy comments can get on-air personalities in trouble.
So at the risk of angering many readers who flamed me when I suggested that there was no way Sirius or XM would hire Don Imus after CBS (CBS) fired him for his racist and sexist remarks about the Rutgers college women’s basketball team …I told you so.

I think it has more to do with the fact that consumers control the market to a greater degree than they realize, whether indirectly by pressuring advertisers, or more directly, by threatening subscriber rates. People have limits for bad taste, and XM just found out where they exist. And while the subscribers who complained may not have been O&A listeners, they still pay XM a monthly fee — and apparently exist in large enough numbers to make a difference.
As La Monica points out, that was not the only pressure XM faced. They have inked a deal with rival Sirius to merge, which requires FCC approval, and Congress already has deep skepticism about the deal. Any controversy at this point hurts the merger, and especially one in which two emotionally stunted hosts start fantasizing about raping the Secretary of State. If Congress wanted an excuse to torpedo the merger, then O&A handed them the hook they needed.
Suspension is the proper penalty, and CBS would have done better to apply that penalty to Imus as well. It imposes limits on their tolerance for bad taste and gives the show the opportunity to exist within those limits, and it keeps their audience happy in the long run. All publisher make editorial decisions, and XM may have looser boundaries, but they still have to decide how best to keep their subscribers. It’s the right decision, applied in the right manner, and it leaves the more permanent solution as a disincentive.
And this is not a free-speech issue. Opie and Anthony can start airing their show on the Internet tomorrow and become their own publishers in a heartbeat. They want a big salary, though, rather than relying on the uncertain income stream that would bring. If XM finds them offensive, or if they feel their subscriber base does, then they can dump the show whenever they want, within their contractual obligations. It’s a free-market issue, not a free-speech issue. Those who disagree with XM’s decision are just as free to drop them as XM is to drop immature jerks from their lineup.

The Imus Effect: A Demand For Decency?

Two more shock jocks find themselves on the unemployment lines after offending their audiences with racial humor. CBS News, which fired Don Imus for his offhand comment about the Rutgers basketball team, has now also fired the two hosts of the “The Dog House with JV and Elvis” for a skit that used an Asian restaurant as the butt of a joke about Asians and their accents:

One month after CBS Radio fired radio host Don Imus, it has permanently pulled the plug on a pair of suspended New York shock jocks for a prank phone call rife with offensive Asian stereotypes.
“The Dog House with JV and Elvis,” hosted by Jeff Vandergrift and Dan Lay, “will no longer be broadcast,” CBS Radio spokeswoman Karen Mateo said Saturday.
The cancellation of the show on WFNY-FM, nearly three weeks after the hosts were suspended, was another indication of the increased scrutiny on radio hosts and the heightened management sensitivity to complaints in the wake of the Imus firing.

Where Imus just got sloppy, these two made their bed deliberately. They called a Chinese restaurant and tried to order “shrimp-flied lice”, and then broadcast it. They also compared menu items to the body parts of the restaurant employees and in general acted like 12-year-olds whose parents left them alone for the very first time.
Should that be a firing offense? When I was growing up in LA, that kind of schtick was the repetoire of almost half the FM dial. Rick Dees made a living off of gags like this, decades before it got called punking or pwning; he had one hilarious call to a promoter in which Dees pretended to represent Michael Jackson. Most times, though, it got pretty tiresome and repetitive, and that’s the best that could be said for it — when it didn’t involve racial humor.
How many of us still put up with this kind of joking in our personal lives? Most of us would try to change the subject if one of our friends started spouting off about “shrimp-flied lice” out of embarrassment, and would walk away from acquaintances under similar circumstances. It’s old, it’s tired, and it’s offensive. Almost none of us would make crank calls as a way to get a laugh, and most wouldn’t tolerate it from their kids or friends, either. Radio listeners apparently feel the same way.
People will work this into a First Amendment case, but the First Amendment doesn’t guarantee people gigs at CBS Radio. CBS gets held responsible for its content by its advertisers, who pay for shows like The Dog House. If people want to engage in offensive racial humor like JV and Elvis, no one is stopping them — but CBS has no obligation to air it, and people have no obligation to listen.
In Imus’ case, CBS went too far in firing him for an impromptu idiocy; a suspension would have made the point. In this case, where the two hosts went far out of their way to offend and act like middle-school pranksters, it may have been more appropriate, at least as far as CBS and their advertisers are concerned. Perhaps people will understand that hoary old gags about accents and racial issues should have died along with the comedians who started using them a lifetime ago. The First Amendment does not guarantee the tasteless a broadcast platform, after all.
Addendum: On my post about Opie & Anthony and their offensive broadcast about raping Condoleezza Rice, I printed a correction regarding Breitbart’s text. Andrew Breitbart sent this reply:

At no point in our initial post (see below) did we state that this was a skit, not did we offer the time in which the interview occurred. Here is the initial subhead:
Warning: Extremely Vulgar Language. Shock Jocks Opie and Anthony engage in discussion about forced sex with the Secretary of State. A studio guest begins describing the scenario as the hosts laugh and encourage him. Anthony talks about the horror for Rice as the guest is “holding her down” and assaulting her.
I’m not sure where there is confusion. Perhaps because the Opie and Anthony ‘pests’ sent out volumes of emails to me and others posting the piece that we stated or implied it was a skit. We didnt’. Nor did we offer a time of the original interview.

It’s true that Breitbart TV did not run the date; the assumption was that it had happened the day it appeared, but that assumption was made by me and other bloggers. Also, I didn’t mean that Breitbart had called it a skit when I wrote my correction; Hot Air had retracted part of its criticism when Bryan acknowledged that it was extemporaneous rather than written, and my point was that it really didn’t matter, since the two hosts were laughing and egging on Homeless Charlie — and invited him back for another show. Hopefully this clarifies the clarification …

Will Opie And Anthony Get The Imus Treatment?

Opie and Anthony are two shock jocks with a long history of controversy. In 2002, they lost their jobs in New York after staging a sex contest, complete with live coverage of a couple, er, coupling in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. After outraged Catholics protested against the desecration of their church, the duo went looking for other employment.
They wound up at XM Radio, the satellite subscription radio service that has millions of listeners — including me. I’ve never bothered to listen to them, and today, they proved me right. In a completely tasteless and offensive bit, the pair joked with an in-studio guest about raping Condoleezza Rice:

Warning: Extremely Vulgar Language. XM Shock Jocks Opie and Anthony engage in discussion about forced sex with the Secretary of State. A studio guest, Homeless Charlie, begins describing the scenario as the hosts laugh and encourage him. Anthony talks about the horror for Rice as the guest is “holding her down” and assaulting her. They invite Charlie to be a regular guest.

It’s actually worse than the description:

Voice 1 (Charlie): I tell you what — what that George Bush b***h, Rice? Condoleezza Rice?
Voice 2 (Host): Condoleezza Rice.
V1: I’d love to f**k that b***h, man. (Laughter) She needs to f**k a man. I’d f**k her.
V2: I can just imagine the horror on Condoleezza Rice’s face when she realized what was going on. (Laughter)
V3 (Host 2): You were all just holdin’ her down and, you know, f**kin’ her. (Laughter)
V1: Punch her all in the f**kin’ face, saying, “Shut up, b***h.” (Laughter)
V3: That’s exactly what I meant. (Laughter)

Compared to these three cases of arrested development, Don Imus was a model of propriety. What kind of men think that raping a woman and punching her in the face makes for humor? It doesn’t matter whether they were talking about the Secretary of State or the secretary working at XM Radio, it’s disgusting and repellent. It shows once again that the two hosts of this show have few redeeming qualities, if any.
Does XM Radio think this is funny? Do their subscribers? I don’t think that Don Imus needed to be chased off the air for his offensive and tasteless remark, but if he went out the door for that, then Opie and Anthony should follow right behind him. However, what do you think the odds will be that Al Sharpton and the media will hold these two creeps responsible for this? About the same odds as having Rice appear on their show next week, is my guess. (via Ian at Hot Air)
UPDATE: Breitbart got the date wrong — this aired yesterday. It was apparently a spontaneous exchange, which makes it only slightly less egregious; if someone had written this as a script, I’d have suggested some free pepper spray kits for the women who work in their studios. As it is, it still remains a repugnant attempt at humor. Anyone with a maturity level above age 12 would have shut down Charlie as soon as he started talking about beating her in the face, not egging him onto that statementr by adding in the part about holding her down and saying, “That’s exactly what I meant” afterwards.

CQ Media Alert: The Hugh Hewitt Show (Update: Strib Announces Staff Reductions)

I’ll be appearing on the Hugh Hewitt show tonight at 5:30 pm. We’ll be talking about the Lileks story, which should come as no surprise, since James has been a contributor to Hugh’s show for years. Be sure to tune in, and you can also catch the live stream at AM 1280 The Patriot!
UPDATE: The Strib announced what we knew was coming — 145 positions will be cut:

The Star Tribune announced plans Monday to reduce its workforce by about 145 employees across the company, primarily through voluntary buyouts. …
“Revenue has been declining since 2004 and we need to respond to that reality.” Ridder said in a prepared statement. “The newspaper business model has changed and this restructuring will allow us to align more resources with what readers and advertisers are demanding from us. Through this process we will be increasing resources focused on local content and advertising products, in both print and online. …
“This is difficult, but we join many newsrooms in having to restructure for changing times,” Barnes said in a statement. “We will continue to deliver a deep, rich state and local news report every day, whether readers want to get that online or in print. In fact, in the restructuring, we’ll be shifting more reporters to local news, in-depth news, and online information gathering than we had before these staff reductions. And we will still have by far the largest news gathering operation in the Upper Midwest region.”

They’ve already started shifting those reporters to local news, which is what they offered Lileks. Many people assume that they want to force James to quit, which may be true, but it won’t help in gathering news. And if the Strib thinks it can convince us that they’ll produce a better newspaper and more in-depth reporting with fewer reporters, then Barnes has been reading her own editorial section for too long.
I wonder if Barack Obama will chastise Barnes and Ridder for the violence they have inflicted on their staff?