Wednesday, April 25, 2007

More Shock Jock Context

Shock Jocks, as crude radio hosts are called, like all radio personalities, get paid to bring in an audience. Where there’s an audience there’s an advertiser. CBS has obviously done well by using shock jocks having employed Imus for 30 years and Howard Stern for a many years as well. As I mentioned in my post on Imus, it is more than a little disingenuous to fire them for what they are paid to do. The question, of course, is whether the jocks are doing what is required or whether they have stepped over the line.

I stated that if Imus’ comment is taken in context, as it would be required in Canadian law, one would have to say that the context didn’t warrant dismissal. But that was the result. In a similar incident with two more of its shock jocks, Jeff Vandergrift (JV) and Dan Lay (Elvis), CBS meted out discipline short of dismissal. The jocks were suspended.

This is a curious result if one, in comparison to the Imus incident, looks at the context. JV and Elvis planned a broadcast prank call to a chinese restuarant. During the call for take out food, they asked a male employee to "tell me about your tiny egg roll" and then made an order for "very large slimp flied lice". They also made sexual comments to a female employee telling her they wanted to go to the restaurant to see her naked and referring to her body parts as "hot, Asian, spicy". These were not off the cuff remarks. They were planned and deliberate. And, more importantly, they replayed the segment on the air a second time a week later. Imus made his comment as part of an on air dialogue. It was not thought out – perhaps he should have known he was crossing the line given his experience, but that’s a tough call. JV and Elvis, on the other hand had time to think about whether it was over the line before they aired it the first time. More importantly, they did this the day after the Imus scandal broke. If they were uncertain about whether the comments might be over the line prior to the Imus incident, they certainly knew after. CBS shouldn’t have thought twice about terminating their employment. Instead they take the cautionary route. Why?

Could it be that when CBS hired the two, they had already been fired from a previous station for making sexist comments?

No comments: