WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — With SiriusXM’s decision over the holiday weekend to fire Anthony Cumia, co-host of the popular satellite radio show ‘Opie and Anthony,’ the company which found success on its uncensored platform has seemingly drawn a line in the sand as to what behavior, even for its ‘shock jocks,’ constitutes going too far.
Cumia, 53, was fired for posting “racially-charged and hate-filled” remarks on Twitter, per a statement issued by SiriusXM, which the company deemed “wholly inconsistent with what SiriusXM represents.”
Those remarks, which Cumia has since deleted (you can read many of them here), stemmed from an incident with a woman in Times Square, where Cumia says he was taking photographs in the early morning hours last Wednesday, when the woman, who Cumia alleges walked into the frame of one of his shots, allegedly began to physically assault him over not wanting to have her photo taken.
Cumia posted photos of his alleged assailant, whom he recalled “punched me in the face,” then “punched me 5 more times,” before launching into a political diatribe on the social media microblog which would span the next several days, saying at one point, “I hope she gets killed.”
The line between what’s appropriate and what constitutes fireble language had always seemed a little more blurred for hosts on SiriusXM, a company which also employs the most renowned shock jock in history, in Howard Stern.
However, the decision by SiriusXM to fire Cumia signals a possible paradigm shift in what will be acceptable behavior, off the airwaves, at least, for those hosts in the foreseeable future.
At least one terrestrial radio host, Danny Rouhier of 106.7 The Fan’s “Grant and Danny,” based in Washington, D.C., offered stern remarks for his satellite radio competitors, for firing a guy once hired “to be provocative.”
“I don’t agree with Anthony Cumia,” Rouhier said. “I don’t agree with him.”
“You hired him to be provocative,” he said. “You hired him to do these sorts of things on the radio. He’s done stuff just like this on the air. I can’t listen every day, but whenever I do, this is segment five. This is not on the air; this is via Twitter, and I brought this up over the weekend, and everybody was like, ‘You applauded the NBA for getting rid of Donald Sterling, you applauded certain other guys that have been sanctioned, and etc.’ This is a different animal. SiriusXM is supposed to be, as far as I understood it when the mission statement kind of came out, that anti-terrestrial radio. We’re more restricted, and rightfully so, by the way, we’re more restricted than they are.”
That mission statement, by the way, can be found directly on SiriusXM’s website (emphasis on “provocative radio entertainment”):
“With XM, listeners will enjoy the clearest, hottest, hippest and most provocative radio entertainment, seamlessly across the country. Wherever they live, whenever they want, in any style they can imagine blues, classical, Tejano, rock, oldies, jazz, R&B, country, gospel, news, talk XM Satellite Radio will provide the quality programming, choice and convenience that today’s consumers demand.”
Rouhier pointed to his previous work experience with SiriusXM — where he says he hosted a show with former New York Knicks guard Nate Robinson on the Shade 45 channel — as having a work environment which fell in stark contrast to his current, censored, terrestrial radio gig — which falls under the regulations of the Federal Communications Commission — to prove the point, the environment at SiriusXM was conducive to fostering outlandish behavior.
“I was stunned at what was allowed to go before and after us, just because I wasn’t used to that in the radio game,” Rouhier said. “Now, here, we are restricted. I get that. Part of my deal, I’m working for CBS Radio. There is a different standard.”
“The point I’m trying to make is, you have this unique, subscription-based service that is supposed to be the last bastion of free speech in our country. You have a shock jock, for lack of a better term to express it, who did something shocking. And now is the moment where you say, ‘That’s too much’ because of a Twitter rant? I don’t understand.”
“Again, I don’t endorse what he said; I just can’t believe that this is the moment that they turned their back on him,” Rouhier said. “See what I’m saying? If they’re in the business of listenership, how many more listeners are gonna come and say, like the Howard Stern phenomenon, ‘I want to see what he says next.’”
The topic would yield a half-hour discussion on the show. You can listen to both segments below.