December 28, 2005, - 6:42 am
By Debbie Schlussel
When Howard Stern begins his satellite radio career on January 9th, he may learn that he hasn’t escaped the censors.
Where terrestrial radio is sometimes disciplined by the FCC, satellite radio is governed by something far more malignant: The Orthodox Liberal-Left.
At least, that was my experience with XM–the number one satellite radio service and rival to Stern’s Sirius. I was aggressively sought by XM to do a show. But XM’s left-wing programming officials’ idea of what my views should be were far more restrictive than a governmental body properly trying to enforce decency in extreme cases. At XM, they were obsessed with Cindy Sheehan and Jane Fonda, vegetable-infused bus tour fantasies, rigidly pro-choice, and opposed to Justice Roberts’ nomination.
Over the past year, XM leadership courted me for a new women’s programming channel–the only original programming they were investing money in. Men are generally the leaders in using technology. But women are the majority of new car buyers–where XM and Sirius get their main exposure through temporary free satellite offerings as part of the package when buying a new car. That’s why XM was focusing its dollars on trying to provide programming “for women.”
But I don’t do “women’s programming.” I make fun of it. To me, the idea that different plumbing means I need any special programming–a la the Damsel-in-Distress Network (a/k/a “Lifetime”) or Oprah’s atrocious failure called the “Oxygen Network”–is absurd. But that’s not the way the left sees it, as I found out when I visited XM studios in Washington.
I turned down the offer to do XM’s women’s programming several times, but finally gave in as a way to get in the door. XM has a conservative talk radio channel, but like Sirius, it doesn’t offer any original conservative talk programming that you can’t hear on regular, free terrestrial radio (so why buy it?).
I had a successful conservative talk radio show on Detroit’s Infinity Broadcasting FM talk station (on which Stern’s show was running). While #1 in its late-night time slot, my show was replaced by “O’Reilly Radio Factor”–a free, company-owned show. The station could save money by not paying me (or Bill O’Reilly). My audience was mostly men–and the select group of smart women who don’t need tampon and Chico’s ads, a Jaclyn Smith he-cheated-on-me movie of the week, and a steady diet of Oprah-style feminism to pique their interest.
When I agreed to do a pilot for XM, I had a conference call with XM’s top programming official and Amy Reyer, the program director for the women’s channel, now called “Take Five.” (Taking more than five seconds of it could be hazardous to your health.) Both had listened to tapes of my show and both told me to ignore the fact that it was a “women’s” channel. I could do my show the way I did it on terrestrial radio, they insisted. They even discussed rating the show “extreme language,” which I assured them was NOT necessary. I’m a conservative, not a porn star.
“We don’t bite,” Reyer assured me. But once I got to XM studios, my experience was otherwise. Everything I said or did was too offensive, too un-P.C. for the privileged liberal women’s programming director, Reyer.
She told me she was looking for a conservative and had auditioned another one, who was too “mousy” (her word). But it soon became clear that she wasn’t looking for a conservative at all–mousy or otherwise. She was looking for an Alan Colmes-style buffoon to be a foil, the conservative bete-noire.
I recorded my pilot the day after Peter Jennings died, and my comments about his liberal and pro-Palestinian bias offended her. So did my comments about women with tattoos, fat women, and pretty much everything else.
Hillary Clinton made a comment in the news about supermodels and what a negative influence they are on “our daughters,” causing them to become anorexic. (Not like Chelsea is exactly rail-thin, but whatever.) I said I found that odd, given that so many Americans (over 60%) are obese–an epidemic in this country, while anorexia is a small issue in comparison. I thought that stores like “Torrid,” featuring super-sized thongs (the length of the Golden Gate Bridge), low-rise jeans in Size 18 (perfect for muffin-top over-exposure), and hammock-esque halter tops were the problem. Maybe Americans need to get more anorexic, not less, I said at a lunch-time conversation.
Oops, I blew the lid off ultra-liberal Amy Reyer. “That’s very irresponsible,” she said, visibly irked. “I hope you will be more responsible than that on the air,” implying that my comments would immediately hypnotize millions of girls not listening to her women’s channel to become skin and bones. Right.
Then, there were tattoos. A&E was just premiering its new reality show about tattoo artists, at the time. I talked about women with tattoos and how, when I see a woman with a tattoo, I see a woman who’s probably easy. If she makes a decision to permanently deface her body so quickly–probably by going to some low-rent needle den in a drunken stupor, getting a metal implement repeatedly stabbed into her body–she’ll probably make other split-second decisions to insert other things into her body in a drunken stupor. When I see a woman with tattoos, I generally see a skank, a whore.
Oops! I offended the left-wing Ms. Reyer again. “You can’t say ‘skank’ on the radio,” she protested. “It will offend our listeners. You need to be more like PBS.” How many PBS-watching 68-year-old cat-ladies–who stay home watching tax-subsidized specials on neo-feminist, pro-Palestinian, lesbian art from Antarctica–do you think get satellite radio? Not many. But it’s not like the liberal Reyer was in touch with that.
It’s not like Reyer had any experience in actual radio. She didn’t, coming from doing “women’s” shows on community access cable. Community access cable–Didn’t Wayne and Garth do that?
In the end, the women’s channel, Take Five, ended up choosing audio of TV’s “The Ellen Degeneres Show” and “The Tyra Banks Show” for its “flagship” programming. I suppose Banks’ Oprah-light, Jerry Springer-esque White minstrel show is more acceptable than my use of the word “skank.” Ditto for the Tyra episode on which her male doctor felt her up to prove to the world that her breasts are real. This is XM’s idea of what upscale, satellite-radio-consuming women want.
When I got to Ms. Reyer’s cubicle at XM headquarters, all was explained to me by the postings on the wall. Other than her son’s drawing, there were just two items, but they told me everything I needed to know. First, there was a notice about Cindy Sheehan’s bus tour, complete with Jane Fonda and vegetable fuel. I asked her why she had that up on her wall. “We’re going to broadcast the tour on our channel,” she told me. I asked her if she really thought women would be interested in hearing daily rantings by Hanoi Jane and Jihad Cindy. “Definitely. That’s what our listeners, that’s what a lot of women, want to hear.”
The other posting on Reyer’s wall was an article about Bush’s then Supreme Court nominee, Judge John Roberts, how women are rabidly pro-choice, and see abortion as the most important issue in his nomination. Which women? Not the ones I know. (Maybe the ones who attended Chelsea Clinton’s and Reyer’s alma mater, Sidwell Friends–the fancy, private Quaker school for rich, white liberals in Washington, who wouldn’t dare send their kids to public school to “mix with the Black folk”; all while they insist on busing your kids in.) I suppose XM’s women’s channel is not aimed at the millions of women who voted for a pro-life candidate in 2004, George W. Bush.
Fortunately, Roberts was confirmed, and the bus tour to nowhere never got off the ground. But XM’s misguided idea–that women want to hear these raving lefty lunatics attack our country and soldiers on a daily basis–should tell you something. That XM was investing money primarily in this channel, programmed by a woman possessed with left-wing orthodoxy, is elucidating.
I learned what Howard Stern and other satellite neo-groupies will soon find out. Satellite radio is gripped by censors far worse than legitimate decency standards: the liberal-left.
Satellite radio is an innovative technology. But its steady diet of the same old mainstream media agenda is anachronistic. You can get the same thing reading the front page of The New York Times–minus Tyra Banks’ classy breast “examination.”
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