Over the last 50 years, the media has been continually evolving. Part of the reason for this, is because there have been shifting tastes in cultural attitudes. This has caused different kinds of programs to air that embrace these new ideas. Once this occurs, they create a new genre that helps to redefine certain segments of the media. In the case of Howard Stern, he had an important role in creating shock jocks. These are people who are on the radio that will often have very racy topics and vulgar content. What made Stern so unique is that he took this format to another level by: having a no holds barred discussions on a variety of topics. ("Shock Jock," 2011)
Evidence of this can be seen by looking no further than comments that Stern made surrounding the death of Latino singer Selena with him saying, "Spanish people have the worst taste in music. They have no depth. Alvin and the Chipmunks have more soul. Her records are awful music that could only be popular with that segment of society." (Prodis, 19956, pg. 2) This created such outrage that it jammed the phone lines of a Dallas radio station that broadcast the Stern show. At the same time, the Justice of the Peace in Harlingen, Texas issued an arrest warrant for Stern on disorderly conduct. This helped to fuel a push to have the show taken off of the air (which was unsuccessful). What this is showing, is the overall amounts of social criticisms that are leveled at Howard Stern. As he claims, that his comments are nothing more than observations that are not intended to harm anyone. (Prodis, 19956, pg. 2) To understand what is happening requires studying social criticism and how it applies to the Howard Stern Show. Once this occurs, is when we will see as to why there are such heated emotions directed at him.
What is Social Criticism?
Social criticism is when you are looking at the various social structures to determine problems with the system. Depending upon who you are talking with, the views will vary from one person to the next. As some will think that there should be, greater amounts of flexibility when looking at these issues. While others, want more radical steps to be taken in dealing with these challenges. In the case of Howard Stern, he had a wide variety of social criticisms leveled against him. Where, some people think that this is nothing more than an opinion that is protected by free speech. Those individuals who do not like his views can turn their radios off. Then, there are others (who have more radical insights) that find his show offensive and want it off of the air. ("Social Criticism," 2011)
This is important, because these criticisms have led to heated amounts of intensity directed at the show. As Howard, has a large following of fans that help to give him a tremendous boost to his ratings, with Stern referring to himself as the "King of All Media." This means that the majority of radio stations like to have the show on the air due to its tremendous amounts of popularity. However, there have also been more radical actions taken against the show to include: boycotts, fines and some of the characters (i.e. Stern) were subject to select amounts of criminal prosecution (although nothing ever happened). This is illustrating the constant struggle of the show in regards to social criticism. Where, the tremendous popularity is keeping it on the air. Yet, the continuous amounts of negative criticisms mean that it is constant battle in dealing with these challenges. ("Social Criticism," 2011) (Kasindorf, 1992, pp. 37 -- 43)
What does it mean to Conduct Social Criticism?
Conducting a social criticism is when you are looking at different viewpoints on the subject. Where, you are examining the comments and the impact that they are having on: a particular demographic of the population or specific social theory. For example, one way of understanding the views of women about a particular topic is study feminism. This is when you are looking at these issues from a more liberal viewpoint that is based upon equality for all women. ("Social Criticism," 2011)
When you apply this to the Howard Stern Show, it is clear that there are many different sketches and comments that are considered to be derogatory towards women. Evidence of this can be seen when Stern conducted a skit called Virgin Mary Kong. The way it worked is God created a video game where single men chased the Virgin Mary from one bar to the next in Jerusalem. There were also incidents when Stern had a lesbian dial a date session. In both situations, he outraged women to the point that Stern was fined $490,000.00 for these comments and placed on administrative leave for one week. (Kasindorf, 1992, pp. 37 -- 43)
From the feminist perspective, it is clear that Howard is sexist. The reason why, is because his sketches are derogatory towards women by: making them appears as sex objects. Once this occurs, is when it does not help women to be treated as equals to men. Instead, they are seen as nothing more than play things. The Stern show became the epitome of this by having these kinds of sketches on a regular basis. As a result, this has helped to increase the overall amounts of criticisms that are leveled against Stern. (Kasindorf, 1992, pp. 37 -- 43)
A second social criticism of the show can be seen from contemporary perspectives. Where, Howard is considered to be very liberal and he has somewhat unorthodox opinions about a host of events. This means that when particular incident occurs, he will often intertwine these views with some of the shocking of comments that he is known for. ("Social Criticism," 2011)
A good example of this can be seen with the comments that Stern made on the air after the Columbine shooting with him saying, "There were some really good looking girls running out with their hands over their heads. Did [the suspects] try to have sex with any of the good looking girls? At least if you are going to kill yourself and kill all the kids, why wouldn't you have some sex? If I was going to kill some people, I'd take them out with sex." This caused hundreds of complaints to be made against the show's Denver affiliate. In the aftermath of these events Stern commented by saying, "I dared to ask if kids had sex. So what? That's how I think. I had zero intent to make fun of the situation. The point in making that comment was an attempt to try to understand a motive. We didn't know anything about motives [the morning after] and were trying to consider all possibilities." ("Howard Stern under Fire from Colorado Assembly," 1999)
This is significant, because is showing how the comments that were made by Howard on show created tremendous amounts of social criticisms. The reason why, is because he was talking about an incident that was so hurtful in such a derogatory manner. While at the same time, he is defending his actions by claiming how is seeking to understand a motive for the crime by: asking why the perpetrators did not have sex with the girls. As a result, this is an illustration of how Stern can deal with these social criticisms, because he feels that he has legitimate opinions. Based on the size of his audience, he is able to get away with more in comparison with other radio show hosts.
However, the problem that Stern has faced over the years is that the underlying amounts of social criticisms against the show have increased exponentially. This caused regulators to begin actively targeting the kinds of comments that he was making on a regular basis. Once this occurred, is when the overall amounts of pressure increased on radio stations to begin forcing him to clean up his act. This caused Stern to become even more defiant by moving to Sirius Satellite Radio in 2005. As they, cannot be regulated by the FCC and he has more of open format in discussing a host of different ideas. (Ovide, 2011)
On the surface this was supposed to address these issues. However, the company has changed since he has been with Sirius (most notably the XM acquisition). This meant that Stern is not as sought after as he once was, when the two firms were competing against each other. What happened is the company agreed to pay Stern a percentage of new subscribers that came on board. The problem is that he has only been paid for this amount only one time during his contract with Sirius. This forced Stern to file a lawsuit against Sirius XM with his lawyers saying, "World-renowned radio personality Howard Stern put Sirius on the map. But, with the exception of a stock…