The Hamilton Spectator
Wednesday, November 12, 1997
page B1

Shock jock Stern blasted for abusive rants on radio

by Chris Cobb, (ccobb@thecitizen.southam.ca)

OTTAWA -- New York shock jock Howard Stern is violating Canada's broadcast standards with his abusive rants against French Canadians, women, and homosexuals, according to a scathing report issued yesterday.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards council (CBSC), created by broadcasters to handle public complaints about TV and radio shows, says in its report that Stern is abusive, sexist, and discriminatory and radio stations CHOM-FM in Montréal and Q107 in Toronto should not be syndicating his show during prime-time morning hours when children may be listening.

The CBSC, which has no direct power over the radio stations, has asked that they broadcast, in prime time, a one-paragraph summary of the report saying Stern has breached ethical codes. Both stations say they will do so.

Standards council chairman Ron Cohen said yesterday Stern has generated more complaints than any issue the council has dealt with. Although its report is based on only the first two weeks of shows, Canadians are complaining about Stern almost on a daily basis. More than 1,000 written complaints have been received so far -- about 900 more than the council's previous big issue, the children's TV show, The Power Rangers.

Cohen won't predict how the stations will react but hinted he would be unhappy if they council's decision is ignored.

"Any show that doesn't conform to Canadian standards", he said yesterday, "should not be on the air in this country".

The report presents both stations with huge dilemmas. Stern has revived their sagging fortunes -- doubling Q107's morning ratings and significantly boosting CHOM's.

But if they continue to broadcast the show, which will doubtless continue to violate Canadian standards, the stations could be in trouble with the country's broadcast regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. The CRTC grants licences to broadcast and has the power to revoke those licences.

CRTC offices were closed yesterday for Remembrance Day.

Both radio stations issued similar statements yesterday refusing comment on the decision.

"This decision is long and complex and we need some time to study it", Q107 general manager Don Luzzi said yesterday. "Yes, our ratings for the Stern show have been excellent, superb."

CHOM-FM general manager Lee Hambleton said he would react to the report in a few days but confirmed, too, that Stern had pulled CHOM out of the ratings cellar.

"It's extraordinary", said Hambleton. "He's huge."

Complaints against Stern began pouring in after his first show on Sept. 2. During that broadcast, in an obvious attempt to impress his first international audience, he referred to French Canadians as (among other things) "scumbags" and "peckerheads" and said everyone in Québec should be forced to speak English.

In subsequent broadcasts, the standards council accuses him of using persistent, often violent sexist remarks and, in its report, includes several examples of Stern's conversations with female callers.

In one show, quotes the report, Stern referred to actress Kim Basinger, saying he would like her to "lay by my pool in a bikini" where he would "yank out her vocal chords (and) break her legs".

The standards council is not impressed by Stern's claim that his show is meant to be funny.

"It may well be the case that many in the audience find such comments entertaining", says the council. "This sort of adolescent humour may work in private venues but it is thoroughly in breach of Canadian codified broadcast standards."

Stern, who has become a multimillionaire since his show began on WXRK-FM in New York 12 years ago, has said several times that he does not let his own children listen to him on the radio.

"I am a parent", he said in one broadcast, "and as a responsible parent I wouldn't let my kid listen to the show."

The standards council calls this "a small irony". Stern did not respond yesterday to requests for an interview.


Copyright © 1997 by Southam News. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.