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Is Radio’s Shock Jock Era Over?

Once a pillar of radio broadcasts, terrestrial and otherwise, the popularity of shock jocks, like Howard Stern, Opie and Anthony and Bubba the Love Sponge, has withered in recent years. With Stern expressing remorse over his previous airwave antics during the promotion of his just-released book, “Howard Stern Comes Again,” trade site Radio Ink offered some fascinating insight into why the shock jock format seems to be floundering.

Perhaps the most obvious reason, offered Jacobs Media Strategies president Fred Jacobs, is the rise of political correctness and radio companies’ overall wariness of potential PR issues. “No one wants to offend advertisers or audiences,” said Jacobs. “The king of the shock radio movement, Howard Stern, is now apologizing to the many people he’s managed to offend. What does that tell you?”

According to Walter Sabo, CEO of Sabo Media, the “shock” part of shock jock has just become the norm on many daytime talk shows. TV segments will regularly discuss celebrities’ sex lives and use language that used to be taboo on the radio. Saying “douchebag” once got Stern suspended for a week, but now nobody would bat an eye if someone said the word on air.

“In an era when there is daily news about the president of the United States paying off a porn star … and telling Billy Bush that he can feel free to grab a woman’s most private parts, shock radio has become reality,” said Jon Quick, president of Q Public Relations. “So how can we be any further shocked?”

Veteran radio consultant John Sebastian said Stern leaving the airwaves was the beginning of the end for the shock jock format. “Other shockers demanded salaries way higher than today’s operators are willing to spend,” he said. “Operators today, generally, are afraid to take any risks, any controversy. At a time when ‘safe is unsafe,’ radio is playing it so safe they’ve starved its creativity and ingenuity.”

Finally, Lee Abrams, a co-founder of XM satellite radio, which in 2008 merged with Sirius, home to “The Howard Stern Show,” believes the market has been flooded with low-quality shock jock imitators. Said Abrams: “There’s no ‘next generation of Howards’ in the bullpen to replace the first generation, and most of the new comic minds aren’t looking at radio, but you can find them on YouTube.”

Read the full article at Radio Ink.

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