Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Rated XM? You Can't Be Sirius!

I agree 100 percent with Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters on the suspension of XM satellite radio shock-jocks "Opie And Anthony" over last week's homeless-guy-raping-Condoleezza Rice schtick:
...[C]onsumers 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.


By the way, it may be bit obvious to say this but, generally speaking rape is not really a topic for humor. A possible exception is a period piece if it is referred to in the context of "rape, plunder and pillage." Aside from the appalling content of their schtick, "O&A" also violated (so to speak) a cardinal rule of humor -- it should be funny.

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