XM Suspends Opie and Anthony, Fails Subscribers
Written by Craig Lyndall
Published May 16, 2007
"Beyond AM. Beyond FM. It's XM Satellite Radio." Those words were all a part of the sales pitch that drove XM to the top of the satellite radio food chain. The product was advertised as an all new radio experience where the old rules and standards would not apply. Commercials weren't a part of the mix because subscribers signed up directly. FCC regulations didn't apply for the same reason that HBO was allowed to have graphic sex and violence on their TV shows. As of yesterday, when XM management decided to suspend controversial talkers Opie and Anthony for 30 days, all the promises and sales pitches started to ring hollow.
How did this situation get to this point? Last week, Opie and Anthony had a homeless gentleman in the studio who was riffing semi-coherent craziness. As the jocks have done many times in the past, they really stayed out of the guest's way to let him ramble right on through to see what kind of entertaining pearls of nuttiness they could bring out of him in order to entertain numerous fans on the show that XM has proclaimed in the past is the most popular original show on the platform, excluding syndicates like ESPN and MSNBC. As the homeless man named Charlie continued to ramble, he made a comment about how he would like to have sex with Condoleezza Rice.
Now, as most of you have read, Anthony followed that up by saying something really outlandish. He wondered what it would look like to see the horror on Rice's face as Homeless Charlie was on top of her and punching her in the face. I know how that looks in print. There is no way in the world that that could possibly be funny, right? I can understand those thoughts. It makes sense to me. The thing is that people who are reading this quote in print from their newspaper or on The Drudge Report have no idea what the context truly was.
Earlier on during Homeless Charlie's ranting, Opie asked him what he did for money. Charlie said that he panhandles, or sometimes he would "punch an old bi*** in the face." Keep in mind that these are the ramblings of a homeless crazy person. Opie and Anthony were running with it and taking it to whatever limits they could find to take it in order to keep the crazy talk coming. And it worked for the most part.
The thing is, when the news reports that Opie and Anthony talked about a violent sexual assault of Condoleezza Rice, they are not reporting honestly and fairly. The way that reads, it would seem that the jocks were rooting for this to happen, when in fact, they were looking to exploit the juxtaposition of a crazy homeless man who has a penchant for bragging about making money by punching women in the face, who also happens to be attracted to a person who could be considered the most powerful woman in the country. You may not find it funny, but it is certainly without malice and/or ill will toward Ms. Rice.
And it is with that filter that I sit here feeling completely let down by the management team that was responsible for the suspension of Opie and Anthony for the next 30 days. They have been strong supporters of the Opie and Anthony show ever since it came back to XM. The management of the company have called and visited the show frequently, including EVP of Programming Eric Logan, Senior VP and Chief Programming Officer Lee Abrams, and CEO Hugh Panero. Their support of the show over the last few years including bits and segments that could easily have been deemed more offensive than anything said during the bit with Homeless Charlie is tacit approval at worst.
So, what has XM done? They have made portions of their advertising fraudulent. They have violated the philosophy of free speech. Worst of all, they have failed to support their talent and let their subscribers down. If half the messages are true on Opie and Anthony's fan message boards are true, XM has also let their shareholders down as thousands of Opie and Anthony fans have been canceling their subscriptions ever since the announcement of the suspension came out yesterday afternoon.