NEW YORK — It’s become a cliched formula for radio success: bad taste equals good ratings. No outrage seemed too outrageous if the Arbitron numbers were up — until lately.
This month, a Phoenix disc jockey was dismissed after an offensive call to the widow of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile. The firing came just weeks after a pair of New York shock jocks were dumped for encouraging listeners to have sex in church.
Are the days of “anything goes” radio gone? Does FM now stand for “fire me”?
Perhaps. Radio industry veterans believe DJs are getting more cautious with their words and more aware of their actions since the crackdown on crass behavior.
“For the stations and the shows that do those kind of stunts, there certainly has been a re-examination of conscience, attitudes and guidelines,” said Scott Shannon, morning show host at WPLJ-FM and one of radio’s most influential programmers.
Tom Taylor, editor of the trade publication Inside Radio, has heard the same thing in conversations with disc jockeys.
“They’re becoming more careful,” Taylor said. “There’s a thing in their heads, the self-censoring thing: ‘Should I do that?”’
That thing comes too late for some.
Greg “Opie” Hughes and Anthony Cumia kicked off this bout of broadcast introspection with an August stunt that grounded their nationally syndicated afternoon show.