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Making Sense of Another Radio Firing

DailyNewsFor nearly 20 years Opie & Anthony have been serving up their unique brand of radio. They’ve been called “shock jocks,” “Stern wannabes,” and now “racist.”

Anthony Cumia, the second half of Opie & Anthony, was fired by SiriusXM over the weekend for a series of offensive tweets he made about African-Americans after a woman physically assaulted him in New York City.

(You can read the tirade here if you dare and here’s a personal perspective from a former co-worker of Cumia.)

It brings up a couple of discussion points for radio.

Is your personal twitter account really personal? No. Not when you’re on the radio. Not even if you put a disclaimer on it. Your employer leases your brand via your compensation. It’s not a three-hour-a-day lease. It’s a lease. You get in trouble at home and you’re likely trouble at work.

Isn’t this America? Don’t we have freedom of speech? Yes. It is America. Yes. You do have freedom of speech. (for the record other countries have freedom of speech too). To be clear, while you are free to say what you want you are still responsible for your words. And the 1st Amendment only protects you from being penalized by the government, not your employer. (read up on it here )

Didn’t SiriusXM know the kind of personality they were hiring? I should think so. Opie & Anthony have been in trouble before for crazy, silly, stupid things (see: 100 grand giveaway, Mayor’s April Fool’s death, the Voyeur Bus, Sex for Sam, and Homeless Charlie – all detailed here:  )

So, Why Fire the Guy? This is where it gets interesting. While SiriusXM has seen recent revenue growth it’s below the industry average and hasn’t impacted the bottom line yet. The Street also reports the gross profit margin is mixed and trails the industry average. Additionally, O&A’s biggest advocate at SiriusXM, Tim Sabean, the SVP of Comedy and Entertainment, was let go from the company just a week ago and the guys voiced their disapproval of the move on twitter. Getting rid of an expensive, hard to control talent at the earliest possible convenience seems more than just a little coincidental.  You also must consider this is a publicly traded company who can’t be seen as supporting hate speech like what was spewed by Cumia over twitter.

Bottom Line: We live in a changing world. It didn’t take much to “shock” us before the horrors of the world were a mouse click away. Now it takes so much to get people’s attention that by the time you do it’s like pulling a boulder over a cliff. Once you tug hard enough to get it moving, you can’t pull it back and you are ultimately crushed by the weight of it. If you’re first instinct is to try to shock the world. Take a breath. Is the momentary “GASP!” worth what follows?

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  1. December 29, 2014 at 12:09 PM

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