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The Fall and Rise of Opie and Anthony
Dateline: 8/26/02
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Why did Opie and Anthony really get fired? Was it just a stunt gone bad? Did they really go over "the line" - wherever that line is and whoever decides it? Had they done something SO outrageous compared to previous New York City radio standards that they warranted immediate employment "execution"?

Some will argue that bad taste (or alternate taste) and radio go hand-in-hand. And, to that end, radio companies have been more than willing to turn a blind eye to off-color programs and personalities in the name of money and ratings. There is strong evidence to this attitude in recent history.

A 1988 Howard Stern broadcast of a "Christmas Party" over three stations including WXRK-FM, New York prompted the F.C.C. to fine each station a paltry $2,000 because of indecent programming broadcast at times when children would likely be listening. Then, in 1995, Infinity - the company that fired "Opie and Anthony" - paid $1.7 million dollars in fines for Stern's "indecency". Seems the stakes had been raised.

In 1993, radio personality Mancow (now in Chicago) blocked the Golden Gate Bridge to get a haircut (in protest of Bill Clinton's highly controversial haircut that took place on a runway, delaying airport operations). That stunt wound up costing Mancow's former station $1.5 million dollars to cover the inconvenience to commuters that morning.

This morning, The New York Post is reporting that Clear Channel, the owner of New York's Classic Rock Q104, may be looking at "Opie and Anthony" as a morning rival to Howard Stern. Leslie Gold, a recent hire, is now doing mornings there.

If that is true, then Clear Channel would have to be crunching numbers and doing some soul-searching.

Considering some of the bad publicity Clear Channel has had lately, would the corporate giant - owner of over 1200 other radio stations - really want the potential headache? Opie and Anthony would definitely bring a challenge to Stern and bring immediate numbers (ratings) to the Q104 morning show, but there should be no doubt, the Catholic League would be monitoring Opie and Anthony's every word, waiting for another opportunity to try and remove them from the airwaves. And although it would be fun to finally witness the inevitable duel between O&A and Stern, does Clear Channel want this anxiety? The only question for Clear Channel is always one thing: what is the profit potential.

In the end, Infinity did not stand by Opie and Anthony because it was worried what their antics might be doing to the good name of the company. Infinity knew who they hired to begin with: they were not choir boys. Rather, it was simply bottom line dollars. It might have been worth it to pay a fine of a million or two dollars in lieu of the increased ratings/ad dollars publicity brings. But, losing the WNEW-FM license in a high-profile investigation prompted by the Catholic League just wasn't cost-efficient. They can find someone to make new ratings, but they can't make a new license.

- Corey Deitz

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