Save Opie and Anthony!

“You have the right to free
Speech as long as you're not
Dumb enough to actually try it!
-The Clash, “Know Your Rights”

I suppose it was just a matter of time before the self-appointed watch dogs came after them, but Free FM/XM Radio hosts Opie and Anthony are the latest radio personalities to be embroiled in controversy. Their entrance into the censorship fight comes because of an incident that occurred earlier this week.
To fully understand the context of what happened, one must understand the duo’s broadcasting format. The first half of the Opie and Anthony show is simulcast on both XM and fifteen or so terrestrial radio stations. This is a cleaned-up version of the show, and is broadcast from the Free FM studios in New York City.
Once that portion is completed, they then walk to the nearby XM Radio headquarters for the non-censored portion of their marathon broadcast. When weather permits, the “walkover” is broadcast on XM, and the pair is joined not only by comedian Jim Norton but fans, friends, and the occasional celebrity or two.
They also obviously encounter New York City residents that are on the streets at that time of the day. Some of these folks are people on their way to work, but a number of them are also homeless people who are regularly found at the exact same spot everyday. A handful of these people have become semi-regular contributors to the show, and a number of them were bused to an affluent shopping mall last December for a “Homeless Shopping Spree” broadcast.
The walkover was not broadcast this past Wednesday, but the pair came across an interesting homeless guy named Charlie. He was invited up to the studio, where he provided no-holds barred opinions on Al Sharpton, whites, Jews, Queen Elizabeth, and many others.
When asked about Condeleeza Rice, Charlie went off on a fantasy about raping the Secretary of State. After a couple of other comments, Charlie moved on to other topics. The entire exchange lasted less than 45 seconds.
The next day, a previously unknown website forwarded an out of context audio clip to Matt Drudge, and now Opie and Anthony find themselves in the same position as Don Imus, JV & Elvis, and an ever-growing number of other radio personalities. Most damaging is the errors included in most of these presentations. For example, more than one commentator has claimed that Charlie was actually a paid comedian portraying a homeless man in a scripted bit. Others have attributed Charlie's quotes to either Opie or Anthony.
Even if that was the case, the Charlie incident is much different than the situations involving Imus and JV & Elvis. While those incidents were also overblown, they did occur on commercial, advertiser-driven, traditional radio. XM Radio is subscriber-based, is labeled as raunchy, and XM provides channel-blocking software to “protect” children and the easily-offended.
One can certainly be offended by Charlie’s comments, but that is not reason enough to force XM to fire the duo. To do so would be a horrible precedent that could really alter the landscape of satellite radio, as the PC police would inevitably move on to provocative material aired on not only the other comedy channels but also the rap, metal, and punk channels. It could conceivably provoke these people to move on to cable television programming. Goodbye, Sopranos (oh wait, they’re done in a month anyway). Goodbye, Cathouse. Goodbye, Taxicab Confessions.
Broadcasters today have almost no chance to survive if they want to attract the young adult audience that traditionally craves “edgey” material. This audience demands raunchy non-PC entertainment, yet management has put such a tight noose around these entertainers that even the most popular personalities can be fired if the wrong person hears a line or two that they don’t like. Earlier in the week, Opie and Anthony railed against a Free FM handbook they were given entitled “Words Hurt”. How can a duo notorious for their non-PC look at the world survive with these restraints?
The good news is that there are signs that the broadcast community is beginning to realize that this is a witch hunt. Fox’s Sean Hannity and Shepard Smith are just a couple of the unlikely people who commented negatively on the calls for the pair’s firing.
Also assisting in the fight is a new organization, People Against Censorship, which was formed a few weeks ago to keep people informed of these witch hunts. Tomorrow afternoon, a few hundred of these brave folks will gather in New York City’s Union Square to demonstrate “against censorship, against special interest groups who attempt to censor, and to support free speech on commercial radio”. For more information, please check out


Anonymous said…
I believe that XM will stand behind O&A on this one. The company understands that there are a lot of fans out there paying good money to listen to them and they (the fans) will speak up if the show goes away. I have 4 radio subscriptions and I will terminate all of them if the show is cancelled. That's not a comment that's based on an angry reaction, but one based on principle. XM radio as a concept, and the XL channels in particular cater to an audience that by choice want variety, quality and at times edgy content.. if the media hungry critics take that away from us, and jeopordize the content of the remaining shows then why would we pay hard earned money for what we no longer want.
Anonymous said…
Good post scott
Anonymous said…
Frederika, Are you about a size fourteen?

Seriously, I have 5 subscriptions and I will cancel them all because the main reason for having them is for XM 202, the O & A show and Ron & Fez. Scott, I totally agree with your post and hopefully the suits at XM HQ will realize that this story was manufactured by some two-bit website
Anonymous said…
Great blog, Scott.
Anonymous said…
I would concur with Jame.

It can be offensive. It can be hilarious. It's definitely adult entertainment (It's verboten around my many kids), but it's unexpected and not the typical pablum you're going to get with many other channels.

When I'm in the mood for something to laugh and cringe, I listen to O&A. When I want broadway show tunes, I listen to the broadway channel. When I want 80's rcok, I'm at channel 8 (or 49).

What I don't agree with are the self-annointed moralists trying to tell me wht I can and cannot listen to.
Anonymous said…
Sooner or later .. at this rate ... radio will just be sports, news and music. There is too much media in our lives or who would even know what some homeless guy in Ny said. W.o.W ... Some times I wish the south won. Your ___ Box, Lets hope not
Anonymous said…
Their comments were not intended to be anything harmful or as a direct attack on Ms. Rice. If you do not like what they have to say DO NOT listen to them. I happen to enjoy the show very much and it would be a disgrace to have them removed from the air for this type of comment. The political groups are making a complete mockery out of our constitutional rights for freedom of speech. If this type of ridiculous censorship continues we may as well just call the USA a communistic form of governement because it is indeed the course we are on. I hope XM chooses to support them and I will certainly cancel my 3 subscriptions should they hang them out to dry.
Anonymous said…
I fully agree with you Rob, so much happens in this country that people do not hear about it because the media never reports it, they only report what will make them money. Opie and Anthony have done no wrong, this whole story has recieved so much media attention because everyone is throwing around a bunch of mis-contruciated facts. The origanial claim has been tossed around so much that it now has become a mobfest of what the reality actually is.
Biscuiteater said…
Well said Scott.

Where is this going to end?
xxxMAULxxx said…
Well said Scott...... They are being critisized for comments made on a PAY SERVICE. XM has a content filter where you can block channels from being tuned in, IF YOU DON'T, LIKE IT DON'T LISTEN!!!! If no one listens then the show goes away. Don't Listen if the show is not for you. Just because you don't like the show doesn't mean the fans of the show have to suffer.

Would you like The Sopranos Removed from the air for their blatent racist remarks against Blacks. You pay for HBO its not pumped into your house for free. XM radio's Opie and Anthony are only free to use foul language on the XM side of the show. The humor, all be it tasteless, may offend you but did not break any Rules. This isnt about the content so to speak. The RIGHT TO SAY IT is the issue. And your rights are not being infringed upon. You have the freedom to say what you want, outside the obvious inciting riots and yelling fire in a crowded theater. Making some Funny Jokes that may Offend people isnt a crime and isnt hate speech.

If XM Removes the Opie and Anthony show from the air. I will be cancelling my 3 subs.
Anonymous said…
Scuba -

Well said scott... this Im sure is just the begenning of what will be a long drawn out battle between people whom have nothing better to do, that criticize rather than take their own ability to use the onoff button & entertainers.
Anonymous said…
XM is a paid subscription service, because of this i believe they will stand behind o&a until something is actually done to LOSE subscribers. right now all this press is just good for the show. you know what the say, any press is good press... besides which, a lot of the people who subscribe and listen on the xm side want to hear the 'racey' offensive material, as do i. besides o&a didnt even say the comments in question, so its a lot diff than the imus/jv & elvis situations.
Anonymous said…
Well said Scott...

What XM has done is disappointed a number of individuals that shared their vision of uncensored programming and were willing to PAY for that service. It has also set a precedent for the all other XM listeners that programs they enjoy today may not be there tomorrow based on pressures that management cannot handle.

Keep up the good work supporting the cause.

Anonymous said…
Looks like me and Prez were wrong about XM standing behind the boys... I called this morning and cancelled 4 subscriptions. I wont go back unless they call off the suspension and admit it was wrong.

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