Some might label the decision by Viacom's
Stern has been part of a major fracas for several months now. Ever since the baring of Janet Jackson's breast at the Super Bowl, Congress has been feverishly fashioning legislation to clamp down on broadcasters that air what some feel is objectionable material. Back in March, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would steeply hike indecency fines. A week ago, a new anti-indecency law moved another step closer to reality when the Senate approved its version of such legislation.
Faced with crackdowns, one broadcaster decided that the risk of carrying Stern's program outweighed the reward. Clear Channel Communications
Meanwhile, Viacom, which employs Stern, may have decided that the "King of All Media" is anything but a liability. Since Clear Channel pulled him off its airwaves, Stern has gone on the offensive, railing against the FCC and George Bush. This has generated plenty of media coverage and controversy. And as Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 have demonstrated, controversy sells. Even though Stern's political musings are a departure from his usual antics, his ratings are up in major markets.
Viacom has reined Stern in somewhat, to the celebrity's chagrin. But the firm has also stated that it will stand behind him, a claim backed up by the addition of new stations. Since the shock jock's higher ratings will no doubt entice more advertisers, if Viacom can steer clear of trouble, it surely will be looking at decent returns.
Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer in Chicago, Ill. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.