Down the FM Radio Dial, After Howard Stern

FM radio got its first ratings report since Howard Stern left the commercial airwaves for the uncensored venue of satellite radio. Mike Pesca surveys the dial to see how the "shock jock's" replacements are faring.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

First this. Arbitron released the latest ratings for commercial radio this week and CBS is not doing well. The network lost its big star, Howard Stern, to satellite radio earlier this year, and it has lost many of the 10 million weekly listeners that Howard brought.

From New York, NPR's Mike Pesca reports.

MIKE PESCA reporting:

Former Van Halen lead singer, David Lee Roth, could hit the high notes in Hot For Teacher and wear spandex like nobody's business, but it was clear early on that his business was not to be radio.

This week, Roth was fired as the replacement for Howard Stern on CBS radio's New York station and replaced with Opie and Anthony, two wise guys who gained infamy for inducing a couple to have sex in New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral. As of this morning, there was no sign that their show was going highbrow.

(Soundbite of Opie and Anthony show)

ANTHONY: And we're going to do the Yo Mama thing.

Unidentified Man: Yeah, this is, uh.. Jesus Christ. You've seen the awfulness of it on MTV.

OPIE: This show honestly sucks. It's horrible.

ANTHONY: Our show?

OPIE: No, no, no. Yo Mama.

PESCA: Opie and Anthony are one of three new shows that CBS, formerly Infinity Radio, has launched in the morning on stations that used to air Howard Stern. Where Stern once had phenomenal ratings, leading in many markets and commanding the most advertising revenue in almost all, the new shows lag.

In New York, the CBS station, which Stern once broadcast from, has lost 80 percent of its audience in the mornings. In Chicago and LA, the morning shows have each tumbled more than 25 places in the rankings among key demographics.

But Michael Harrison, the editor of Talkers Magazine, says those ratings are close to meaningless.

Mr. MICHAEL HARRISON (Editor, Talkers Magazine): It's like starting a new play in a theater that used to have a big hit but doesn't have it right now. The fact that Stern was there has no bearing on it whatsoever, so to judge it as, Well, this is Stern's slot, now someone else is in Stern's slot, no, this is not an understudy stepping into the lead. This is a whole new play on a barren stage.

PESCA: Rob Barnett, president of programming for CBS radio, makes another analogy.

Mr. ROB BARNETT (President of Programming, CBS Radio) Howard was a unique guy in radio. I likened it somewhat to the Grateful Dead, you know. They had a fan base that followed them around the country for a long time until Jerry left the building. And you know, when that era ended, those fans kind of dispersed and went looking for other concerts and other bands to follow.

PESCA: There's reason to believe that Opie and Anthony, Rover and Adam Carolla could appeal to the old Stern audience or find new fans. They're all uninhibited, sarcastic, male-oriented talk shows which tackle sex, politics, news, sex, modern life, and sex.

Here are the differences among them. Opie and Anthony have track records of ratings success. If the biggest roll of the dice that CBS took was on Roth, then their safest play was bringing in Opie and Anthony.

Rover is the youngest of the group with a thick, Midwestern accent and a Maxim magazine mindset. Here he discusses an eight year old who was disciplined for supposedly harassing another student.

(Soundbite of Rover)

ROVER (Radio Show Host): Kid doesn't even know what the hell happened.

Unidentified Woman: Yeah, well, that's, the parents got to explain that, look, little Johnny, you can't walk around other girls' asses. You know, what's next? Is he going to cop a feel on the boobie?

ROVER: Okay, so why not say that? Why send him home? Why overreact and send, I mean, that could be traumatic for a kid. Now, all the other...

Unidentified Woman: Oh, please.

ROVER: Why not?

Unidentified Woman: What's traumatic about it?

ROVER: Because all the other kids now in the class know he was sent home for being a sexual harasser.

Unidentified Woman: A bad...

PESCA: Adam Carolla has been a broadcaster for years and has a broader range than the title shock jock would indicate. CBS' Rob Barnett.

Mr. BARNETT: Adam can tell you about just about any topic in the world and do it in an incredibly funny way. He's a natural comedian.

PESCA: Here Carolla talks about the government of Kazakhstan getting bent out of shape after being mocked by a comedian.

(Soundbite of Adam Carolla radio show)

Mr. ADAM CAROLLA (Radio Show Host): I didn't even know that Kazakhstan actually existed. Thought it was one of those made up places, number one.

Number two, what year are we in that we have to explain humor to the rulers of these nations, you know? Yes, how does that work?

And by the way, really, are you more reptile than man when you really have to explain? I mean when you think about the creatures of the world that have no sense of humor, iguanas, any lizards, snakes, alligators, last I checked, the more you evolve, the more you have humor.

PESCA: Radio humor is, of course, in the ear of the beholder. Right now the attempts of the Stern replacements aren't reaching many ears. CBS urges time and patience. They reason that as long as there are drunken dwarves, eight year old butt touchers and ugly mamas, there will be a need for someone to point at them and make us all laugh.

Mike Pesca, NPR News. New York.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.