Yakkity Yak! Don't Talk Back!
Under the Declaration of Independence, whose anniversay we celebrate tomorrow, we have declared for ourselves the right of free speech, subject only to the limitations where one's speech, without due process of law, infringes upon another's life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness. This applies everywhere in America, except upon corporate property when said corporation has rules governing one's topical discussion. One such place is the airwaves of America - property of the citizens of the United States as usurped by the communications corporations.
We have all heard repeatedly about Bill O'Reilly's favorite discussion directive (SHUT UP!!!), and how the vocabulary of the Dittoheads is limited to "Rush is Right!"
But this 'discussion' is about to be changed as the latest casualty of the corporate dominance of the airwaves has been Howard Stern.
I am a realist when it comes to the media, having been peripherally involved with it for 15 years of my life. I know how it caters to the least common denominator in their effort in increase the numbers of viewers or listeners that are sold to advertisers. They know what works, having been experimenting since 1920 with mass electronic media, and Howard Stern didn't become rich because they didn't like what he was doing.
I don't care one whit about who's advertising is paying for the show, because less than one percent of the time will the ad even address a want or a need of mine. I am an adult, and when I hear something that I don't want to listen to - for whatever reason - I know how to operate the tuning devices to find something I'd rather see or hear - even if it's K-OFF, which it most often is.
I'm no fan of Howard Stern. I think he's coarse, petty, juvenile, sexist, inane, and incredibly vain. But, as the famous saying goes, while I disagree with what he says, I will defend his right to say it.
'I criticize Bush and then I'm fired'
"When I was thrown off the six stations I was devastated. I really thought Clear Channel had 'thrown me under the bus,'" Stern said. "I'm not taking it sitting down. ... I'm going to kick their asses. ... I'm thrilled to be back on in these markets."
So who is to have the last laugh?
Howard Stern announced Wednesday that his syndicated morning show would appear in nine new markets, including four where his show was axed by the nation's largest radio chain for alleged indecency. Stern said his program would air on stations in Houston; San Diego; Tampa, Fla.; Pittsburgh; Orlando, Fla.; Austin, Texas; West Palm Beach, Fla.; Rochester, N.Y.; and Fresno, Calif., all owned by Infinity Broadcasting. He said entering the new markets -- in approximately two weeks -- was a message to the FCC, which has tightened its enforcement of indecency standards.
Clear Channel Communications suspended Stern in February and dropped the country's best-known shock jock from its stations in Rochester, Orlando, San Diego, Pittsburgh and two other markets after complaints by federal regulators. In early June, Clear Channel agreed to a record $1.75 million settlement with the Federal Communications Commission to resolve indecency complaints against Stern and other radio personalities. Clear Channel, in dumping Stern, said it feared any continued association with the DJ and his raunchy show might led to losing their station licenses.
Stern accused Clear Channel of taking him off the air not for reasons of obscenity but because he had spoken out against President Bush. "Clear Channel is very tied to the Bush administration" Stern said. "Clear Channel for years has been defending me...I criticize Bush and then I'm fired...They acted out of politics." Stern lashed out against Bush administration's policies on everything from the environment, to stem cell research and the war in Iraq.
'The FCC is on a witch hunt.'
"I'm so frustrated by the amount of censorship that's going on," Stern said "The FCC is on such a witch hunt against me that they actually go back 2 (or) 3 years for reasons to fine me. ... The FCC is on a witch hunt." He railed against the increased scrutiny he has received in recent months from the FCC. "I'm not taking it sitting down," Stern said Wednesday.(Federal law bars radio stations and over-the-air television channels from airing references to sexual and excretory functions between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when children may be tuning in. The rules do not apply to cable and satellite channels or satellite radio.)
Stern's nationally syndicated show features graphic sexual discussion and humor. Joel Hollander, president and chief operating officer of Infinity, expressed his support for Stern. "Howard has dominated the radio landscape for more than 20 years," Hollander said. Stern's listeners are "one of the most loyal audiences in radio who will no doubt embrace his return." With Wednesday's announcement, the show appears on 45 stations -- most of them owned by Viacom Inc.'s Infinity Broadcasting unit -- and draws millions of die-hard listeners.
Stern said the FCC's enforcement "has a chilling effect on all broadcasters." Stern said he was encouraging his listeners, whom he described as swing voters, to cast their ballots for John Kerry. "John Kerry will receive more votes because of this. ... My audience will vote in a bloc," Stern said. "We're also in a lot of key states. ... If we can affect that state that's big news."
Only for this reason do I care about Howard Stern and whether or not he's on the air. There are signs that Stern is having a positive effect in the polling results among the sdemographic group which is most likely to both listen to him and support Bush. Support for Bush in this group is diminishing.
Nationwide, 17 percent of likely voters listen to Stern's radio show, according to the poll released Thursday by the New Democrat Network, a Washington-based group. They favor Kerry over Bush by 53 percent to 43 percent, and by 59 to 37 percent in 18 battleground states. Of the likely voters who listen to Stern, 1 out of 4 is a swing voter who hasn't decided how to vote in November. That means that about 4 percent of the national swing vote up for grabs this fall listens to Stern, according to the poll.
"Look at Howard Stern's audience: 18-to-34 year-old men," says John Zogby, head of Zogby International, a nonpartisan polling firm in Utica, N.Y. "This would be a group — Nascar, ESPN, sports, baseball caps on backwards, conservative, heterosexual, and so on — that ordinarily votes Republican. This could be hugely significant if these young men vote in greater numbers for Kerry."
Sort through the postings on Stern's Web site, and it becomes clear why his listeners could conceivably play a role in electing the next president. Young people, generally an apathetic lot when it comes to casting ballots, are being urged to register. And right-of-center Stern fans, typically Bush backers, are uncharacteristically vowing to pick Kerry over partisan loyalty.
"I live in Whitehall, Pa.," wrote one listener. "I'm a 34-year-old white-collar worker and never registered to vote. Because of you, I registered." Wrote another: "I'm a 25-year-old female from Chicago, and I just love you so much! I've never registered to vote until recently, and I will vote for Kerry." A third correspondent echoed the sentiment: "I have been a fan for a very long time, but I am now starting to listen to the show more carefully. Howard is saying things about our government that EVERY voter in America needs to hear about.... I can't wait for November to vote Bush and his regime out!" This isn't the message the Grand Ol' Party wants to hear.
In the 18 battleground states - including Arizona, Ohio, Colorado, West Virginia and Florida - Stern listeners go for Kerry by a margin of 59% to 37%. A whopping 34% of his faithful are independents.
The idea of Howard Stern as presidential kingmaker may seem absurd on its face. But Stern has successfully dabbled in politics before. In 1994 he launched a Libertarian Party candidacy for governor of New York, only to quit the race and endorse George Pataki, a Republican, over the incumbent, Mario Cuomo. Stern was polling at six percent before he dropped out, and several political observers believed that his endorsement helped Pataki pull off a narrow win. The previous year Stern had endorsed the Republican candidate Christine Todd Whitman for governor of New Jersey, on the condition that Whitman name a rest stop after him if elected. Sure enough, Whitman upset the Democratic incumbent, Jim Florio—and today the Howard Stern Rest Area graces Interstate 290 just east of Burlington City, New Jersey.
Both those races took place within Stern's home market. But with eight million weekly listeners, Stern also has a larger national audience than any radio host other than Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Dr. Laura Schlessinger (the majority of whose listeners presumably tend to be Republican). Stern could sway many undecided voters, according to Michael Harrison, of Talkers magazine, a nonpartisan periodical that surveys radio listener demographics.
Harrison says that Stern has "a gigantic audience of thirty- to fortysomethings, people who have grown up with him, people who are teachers, accountants, lawyers." Several million of them "would say they lean conservative ... but are on the fence" in this race. And the host has tremendous credibility with his listeners. "He may be raunchy, edgy, dirty," Harrison says, "but he's compulsively honest, and his main target is hypocrisy." Also, it's not hard to imagine that Stern's relentless screeds against the President would compel some of the previously nonvoting members of his audience—people whom political campaigns usually ignore—to turn out for John Kerry.
In short, it's not inconceivable that Stern could swing a state or two into Kerry's column.
Howard Stern could literally be one of the two or three things that turns the election this year,'' head of the New Democrat Network Simon Rosenberg told the San Francisco Chronicle. "You've got a guy whose Web site gets 8.5 millions hits a day. And ... it's virtually all anti-Bush. In an election which could be won or lost by 1 or 2 percentage points, you've got a guy who has an unbelievably loyal following of swing voters who has radicalized his audience against the president.''
But how will it play across the nation? FMQB broke down Stern's affiliates and matched them up with the results of the 2000 Presidential Election. In the table below you will find the tallies for Bush vs. Gore. Stern's affiliates are listed for each state, with the cume in parenthesis.
Here are some of the states where Stern could make a difference, assuming that the Bush-Kerry contest run as close as Bush-Gore did:Florida - Obviously a huge battleground state, where Bush beat Gore by only 547 votes. Stern is on four stations in Florida, three of them added yesterday.
Michigan - Won by Gore by a margin of 217,279 votes. Stern has decent numbers in Detroit (cume 111,600) and WBBL/Grand Rapids (cume 13,900), the two markets he's on in the state. His influence over swing votes could help keep Michigan in the Democrat column.
Missouri - Won by Bush by a margin of 78,786 votes. All it would take is for roughly 39,000 people to change their mind and vote Democrat to hand the state to Kerry. Stern's cume on KPNT/St.Louis is 128,600.
Nevada - Won by Bush by 21,597 votes. Stern's cume on KXTE/Las Vegas is 90,900. He is also on KBZZ/Reno, but those cume numbers were not available to FMQB at press time.
Ohio - The state that NBC's Tim Russert says is the key to the 2004 election. Won by Bush in 2000 by 165,091 votes. Stern's total cume in the state from WNCX/Cleveland, WBZX/Columbus and WAQZ/Cincinnati is 326,400.
Pennsylvania - A state that Bush lost to Gore by 204,840 votes. Bush has made numerous campaign stops in the state over recent months, realizing the chance to catch the Democrats in the state is possible. Pennsylvania is also home to WYSP/Philadelphia and WQXA/Harrisburg - two perennial Stern strongholds for a total cume of 425,400. Stern recently returned to the airwaves in Pittsburgh where his cume was 124,700 on WXDX in the Fall 2003 Arbitron survey, his last full book before the Clear Channel outlet dismissed him.
Tennessee - Won by Bush by 80,229 votes. Stern's cume on WMFS/Memphis is 39,400.
Washington - Won by Gore by 138,788 votes. KISW/Seattle's Stern cume of 166,800 could help keep the Republicans from making up the difference.
As one can see - assuming one opens one's eyes - Howard Stern is having some effect. Bush has everything to lose with these F-You Boys who make up Stern's audience. Assuming John F. Kerry doesn't regain the fire he showed when his patriotism was challenged, then Howard Stern's influence could be the margin of victory in a tight race. And as many of the independent truckers of the nation are of this age group, their being hammered by high fuel prices and the introduction of a new source of competition from Mexico pending, they just might be looking for a change as well.
Oh, and George? Go Cheney Yourself!
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