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Stern Keeps 'em Guessing with Bubba



While I remain concerned about the corrosive effects of his work, I have to admit Howard Stern has one sweet set up as he heads off to satellite radio in January 2006.

Where else can a guy spend all his time on the job publicizing his next gig? This morning, Stern rolled out the red carpet for the only other DJ who has been announced as talent for his two channels, Tampa Bay shock radio legend Bubba the Love Sponge.

(Right to left: Bubba and producer/manager Brent, who got nailed in a trivia contest with Stern sidekick Fred Norris)

The discussion itself wasn't very newsworthy -- topics ranged from the $400,000 Bubba spent to get joint custody of his child to the sex talk with an intern that got him kicked off Sirius' Raw Dog comedy channel Thursday. But the appearance was classic stick-it-to-'em-Stern, with the King of All Media enjoying mad props from the one radio guy who lost his career over the FCC's 2004 indecency crackdown while playing clips designed to fire up his audience for the move to satellite.

Before Bubba's bit, Stern couldn't resist noting how badly Infinity seems to be handling his departure, refusing to address the widely leaked rumors that former Van Halen front man David Lee Roth and ex-Man Show host Adam Carrolla will be taking Stern's place alongside a revolving door of other personalities, including former Saturday Night Live castmember Colin Quinn.

(The next King of All Media? Hmmm....)

What intrigues me is the gamble this all has become for Stern, who remains an 800-pound gorilla in the broadcast radio universe. Now that the Federal Communications Commission has received fewer and fewer indecency complaints (down to 6,100 between April and June, a 96 percent plunge), Stern's initial rationale for the channel -- that Shock Jocks seeking to ply their trade have been handcuffed by federal officials -- may be less obvious. If there's no FCC boogeyman to rail against, will fans spend the $$ it takes to start a satellite radio account?

Those who have read Thomas Frank's book "What's the Matter With Kansas?", might be particularly skeptical about this lull in indecency enforcement. Frank contends that conservatives have used the culture wars to incite class warfare without indicting their corporate fatcat patrons; railing against the liberals who they blame for America's coarsening culture, while keeping enough of that stuff around to use as a punching bag whenever they need to turn the faithful out to the polls. (When's the last time you heard anybody in the Bush administration talk about a constitutional amendment to bar gay marriage, which they brought up in early 2004?)

Back when President Bush needed to push conservatives' buttons about American morality to spark voter turnout, now departed loyalist FCC chairman Michael Powell (Colin's son) put the hammer down on broadcast indecency, aided by a conservative advocacy group -- the Parents Televison Council -- which filed 99 percent of the indecency complaints registered with the FCC in 2003. Now that Bush is safely past the 2004 elections, indecency enforcement has moved off the front burner for the new Bush loyalist running the FCC, Kevin Martin.

But that's just my opinion. What do you think?

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:34pm]


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