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Shock jock

Shock jock

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Shock jock is a slang term used to describe a type of any radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

 broadcaster (sometimes a disc jockey
Disc jockey
A disc jockey, also known as DJ, is a person who selects and plays recorded music for an audience. Originally, "disc" referred to phonograph records, not the later Compact Discs. Today, the term includes all forms of music playback, no matter the medium.There are several types of disc jockeys...

) who attracts attention using humor that a significant portion of the listening audience may find offensive. The term is usually used pejoratively to describe provocative or irreverent broadcasters
A presenter, or host , is a person or organization responsible for running an event. A museum or university, for example, may be the presenter or host of an exhibit. Likewise, a master of ceremonies is a person that hosts or presents a show...

 whose mannerisms, statements and actions are typically offensive to many listeners. It is a general-media term, rarely or never used within the radio industry.


The idea of an entertainer who breaks taboo
A taboo is a strong social prohibition relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and or forbidden based on moral judgment, religious beliefs and or scientific consensus. Breaking the taboo is usually considered objectionable or abhorrent by society...

s or adopts a career role in the realm of the frequently offensive is not a new one. Despite insistences of decency
Decency is the quality or state of conforming to social or moral standards of taste and propriety.-See also:*Taste *Communications Decency Act*Public indecency*Indecent exposure*Sodomy law*Norm *Grotesque body...

 activists, there are few eras of history in which there have not existed blue comedians; notoriously offensive performers (Petronius
Gaius Petronius Arbiter was a Roman courtier during the reign of Nero. He is generally believed to be the author of the Satyricon, a satirical novel believed to have been written during the Neronian age.-Life:...

, Benny Bell
Benny Bell
Benny Bell was an American singer-songwriter who reached popularity in the 1940s, with a comeback in the 1970s. He is particularly remembered for his risqué but cheerfully optimistic songs.-Career:Benny Bell was born to an immigrant Jewish family in New York City...

, Le Pétomane
Le Pétomane
Le Pétomane was the stage name of the French flatulist and entertainer Joseph Pujol . He was famous for his remarkable control of the abdominal muscles, which enabled him to seem to fart at will. His stage name combines the French verb péter, "to fart" with the -mane, "-maniac" suffix, which...

, Redd Foxx
Redd Foxx
John Elroy Sanford , better known by his stage name Redd Foxx, was an American comedian and actor, best known for his starring role on the sitcom Sanford and Son.-Early life:...

 and Lenny Bruce
Lenny Bruce
Leonard Alfred Schneider , better known by the stage name Lenny Bruce, was a Jewish-American comedian, social critic and satirist...

 for example). Shock jocks are believed to have appeared in the American radio scene since the 1970s.

Shock jocks also tend to push the envelope of decency in their market, and may appear to show a lack of regard for communications regulations (e.g. FCC
Federal Communications Commission
The Federal Communications Commission is an independent agency of the United States government, created, Congressional statute , and with the majority of its commissioners appointed by the current President. The FCC works towards six goals in the areas of broadband, competition, the spectrum, the...

 rules in the U.S.) regarding content. But nearly all American broadcasters have strict policies against content that is likely to draw indecency forfeitures, and air personalities are often contractually obligated to avoid broadcasting such content. Indecency fines are, in fact, rarely issued by U.S. regulators—no broadcaster has been issued a forfeiture for indecent content since 2003, although several earlier cases are in appeals court.

Popular envelope-pushing areas for shock jocks include sexual (especially kink
Kink (sexual)
In human sexuality, kinkiness and kinky are terms used to refer to a playful usage of sexual concepts in an accentuated, and unambiguously expressive form....

y) and/or scatalogical (toilet humour) topics, or just unabashed innuendo
An innuendo is a baseless invention of thoughts or ideas. It can also be a remark or question, typically disparaging , that works obliquely by allusion...


Many shock jocks have been fired as a result of such punishments as regulatory fines, loss of advertisers
Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common...

, or simply social and political outrage. On the other hand, it is also not uncommon for such broadcasters to be quickly re-hired by another station or network.

Shock jocks in the United States have been censor
Censor may refer to:*Censorship, the control of speech and other forms of human expression*Roman censor, a magistrate for maintaining the census, supervising public morality, etc*Cato Censor , Roman statesman...

ed under additional pressure from the United States government since the introduction of the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005
Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005
The Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005 is an enrolled bill, passed by both Houses of the 109th United States Congress, to increase the fines and penalties for violating the prohibitions against the broadcast of obscene, indecent, or profane language. It was originally proposed in 2004 as...

, which increased the fines on radio stations for violating decency guidelines by nearly 20 times.

Notable incidents

  • February 1974: Larry Lujack
    Larry Lujack
    Larry Lujack , a Top 40 Music radio disc jockey, was known for his world-weary sarcastic style, "Klunk Letter of the Day" and darkly humorous "Animal Stories" along with "sidekick Little Tommy", and "Cheap Trashy Show Biz Report." He was also referred to as Superjock, Lawrence of Chicago, Uncle...

     of WCFL
    WMVP is the callsign of a commercial radio station in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It is owned by ABC. Its transmitter is located in Downers Grove. The station broadcasts live sports talk, both locally and nationally. Daily programming consists of talk shows that are both national and local...

     Chicago responded to a fan's letter on-air by stating he'd play more Jim Croce
    Jim Croce
    James Joseph "Jim" Croce January 10, 1943 – September 20, 1973 was an American singer-songwriter. Between 1966 and 1973, Croce released five studio albums and 11 singles...

     records "when Croce goes back into the studio and makes some more." (Croce had died in a Louisiana plane crash five months earlier.) The resulting protests from Croce fans led to an apology and an on-air admission by a Lujack a few days later that the statement was inappropriate.
  • July 12, 1979: WLUP Chicago disc jockeys Steve Dahl
    Steve Dahl
    Steven Robert Dahl has been an American radio personality and humorist for more than thirty years. He is currently podcasting, and releases the podcasts for download daily from his own website as well as the iTunes store...

     and Garry Meier
    Garry Meier
    Garry Meier is a Chicago-based radio personality and is currently the afternoon host on WGN-AM 720 in Chicago, heard weekdays 3-7 PM CT.- Beginnings :...

     staged "Disco Demolition Night
    Disco Demolition Night
    Disco Demolition Night was a promotional event that took place on Thursday, July 12, 1979, at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois, during which a crate filled with disco records was blown up on the field. It was held during the twi-night doubleheader baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and...

    " at Comiskey Park
    Comiskey Park
    Comiskey Park was the ballpark in which the Chicago White Sox played from 1910 to 1990. It was built by Charles Comiskey after a design by Zachary Taylor Davis, and was the site of four World Series and more than 6,000 major league games...

     between games of a scheduled Chicago White Sox
    Chicago White Sox
    The Chicago White Sox are a Major League Baseball team located in Chicago, Illinois.The White Sox play in the American League's Central Division. Since , the White Sox have played in U.S. Cellular Field, which was originally called New Comiskey Park and nicknamed The Cell by local fans...

    -Detroit Tigers
    Detroit Tigers
    The Detroit Tigers are a Major League Baseball team located in Detroit, Michigan. One of the American League's eight charter franchises, the club was founded in Detroit in as part of the Western League. The Tigers have won four World Series championships and have won the American League pennant...

     double-header. Fans were granted admittance to the games for 98 cents if they also donated unwanted disco records to be blown up at Comiskey's second base during the event. After the records were blown up, fans spilled onto the playing field and rioted, causing the White Sox to forfeit the scheduled second game.
  • October 1993: Matthew "Mancow" Muller made national headlines while working for radio station KYLD in San Francisco, California. At the time, a story had been circulated that President Clinton had tied up traffic on an LAX runway for over an hour because of a haircut on Air Force One. Mancow staged a parody of this incident on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge during rush hour, using vans to block the westbound lanes of the bridge, while his sidekick Jesus "Chuy" Gomez got a haircut. Muller was convicted of a felony by a San Francisco Municipal Court and sentenced to three years probation, ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and fined $500, while KYLD settled a lawsuit filed by a bridge commuter for $1.5 million.
  • April 1995: On the Don Imus
    Don Imus
    John Donald "Don" Imus, Jr. is an American radio host, humorist, philanthropist and writer. His nationally-syndicated talk show, Imus in the Morning, is broadcast throughout the United States by Citadel Media and relayed on television by the Fox Business Network.-Personal life:Imus was born in...

     radio show, US Senator
    United States Senate
    The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

     Al D'Amato
    Al D'Amato
    Alfonse Marcello "Al" D'Amato is an American lawyer and former New York politician. A Republican, he served as United States Senator from New York from 1981 to 1999.-Early life and family:...

     put on a comical Asian
    Asian people
    Asian people or Asiatic people is a term with multiple meanings that refers to people who descend from a portion of Asia's population.- Central Asia :...

     accent and criticized judge Lance Ito
    Lance Ito
    Lance Allan Ito is an American Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, best known for his presiding decision during the O. J. Simpson murder trial. He currently hears felony criminal cases at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center.-Early life and career:Ito was born to Jim and Toshi Ito...

     for personal interest in allowing television
    Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

     cameras in the O.J. Simpson murder trial; Imus was criticized for keeping D'Amato on air because of the shock value of the senator's comments.
  • February 27, 2001: Bubba the Love Sponge
    Bubba the Love Sponge
    Todd Alan Clem is an American radio personality better known by his Legal name Bubba the Love Sponge Clem. He is the host of The Bubba the Love Sponge Show on various Cox Radio and Beasley Broadcast Group stations, formerly on Sirius XM Howard 101, as well as on RadioIO.-Early career and the...

     had a pig
    A pig is any of the animals in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates. Pigs include the domestic pig, its ancestor the wild boar, and several other wild relatives...

    Castration is any action, surgical, chemical, or otherwise, by which a male loses the functions of the testicles or a female loses the functions of the ovaries.-Humans:...

     and killed on the air. Bubba was charged with animal cruelty, but was acquitted
    In the common law tradition, an acquittal formally certifies the accused is free from the charge of an offense, as far as the criminal law is concerned. This is so even where the prosecution is abandoned nolle prosequi...

  • August 16, 2002: Opie and Anthony
    Opie and Anthony
    Opie and Anthony are the hosts of The Opie & Anthony Show, a talk radio program airing in the United States and Canada on XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio. Since the merger of the two satellite companies, this is now called Sirius/XM...

     sponsored a contest where the goal was to have sex in notable public places, called Sex For Sam. The contest went without a major outcry until Sex for Sam 3 after a couple had sex in a vestibule
    Vestibule (architecture)
    A vestibule is a lobby, entrance hall, or passage between the entrance and the interior of a building.The same term can apply to structures in modern or ancient roman architecture. In modern architecture vestibule typically refers to a small room or hall between an entrance and the interior of...

     at St. Patrick's Cathedral
    St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York
    The Cathedral of St. Patrick is a decorated Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral church in the United States...

    . The resulting controversy led to Infinity Broadcasting cancelling the Opie and Anthony Show. Infinity was fined $357,500 USD for the incident.
  • April 8, 2004: Howard Stern
    Howard Stern
    Howard Allan Stern is an American radio personality, television host, author, and actor best known for his radio show, which was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2005. He gained wide recognition in the 1990s where he was labeled a "shock jock" for his outspoken and sometimes controversial style...

    's show was cancelled by Clear Channel Communications
    Clear Channel Communications
    Clear Channel Communications, Inc. is an American media conglomerate company headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. It was founded in 1972 by Lowry Mays and Red McCombs, and was taken private by Bain Capital LLC and Thomas H. Lee Partners LP in a leveraged buyout in 2008...

     after they were fined $495,000 USD for a number of statements made during a Stern show. Stern later used his remaining market share
    Market share
    Market share is the percentage of a market accounted for by a specific entity. In a survey of nearly 200 senior marketing managers, 67 percent responded that they found the "dollar market share" metric very useful, while 61% found "unit market share" very useful.Marketers need to be able to...

     to criticize Clear Channel
    Clear Channel Communications
    Clear Channel Communications, Inc. is an American media conglomerate company headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. It was founded in 1972 by Lowry Mays and Red McCombs, and was taken private by Bain Capital LLC and Thomas H. Lee Partners LP in a leveraged buyout in 2008...

     and the Bush Administration
    George W. Bush administration
    The presidency of George W. Bush began on January 20, 2001, when he was inaugurated as the 43rd President of the United States of America. The oldest son of former president George H. W. Bush, George W...

    , and left the public airwaves to move to satellite radio
    Satellite radio
    Satellite radio is an analogue or digital radio signal that is relayed through one or more satellites and thus can be received in a much wider geographical area than terrestrial FM radio stations...

    , which is not subject to the same FCC decency regulations.
  • April 9, 2004: The Regular Guys
    Regular Guys
    The Regular Guys is a radio morning show based out of Atlanta, Georgia airing on rock station Rock 100.5 featuring Larry Wachs, Eric Von Haessler, "Southside" Steve Rickman and Tim "Action Plan" Andrews. The show's primary demographic target is men aged 25 to 49...

     of WKLS 96 Rock in Atlanta, Georgia
    Atlanta, Georgia
    Atlanta is the capital and most populous city in the U.S. state of Georgia. According to the 2010 census, Atlanta's population is 420,003. Atlanta is the cultural and economic center of the Atlanta metropolitan area, which is home to 5,268,860 people and is the ninth largest metropolitan area in...

     were fired after a graphic interview with porn movie actress Devin Lane was accidentally aired over a Honda commercial. That interview was intended to be played backwards when they returned from the break, mocking the FCC indecency crackdown at the time.
  • May 12, 2004: Portland, Oregon
    Portland, Oregon
    Portland is a city located in the Pacific Northwest, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 Census, it had a population of 583,776, making it the 29th most populous city in the United States...

     disk jockeys Marconi and Tiny played the audio portion of the video of Nick Berg
    Nick Berg
    Nicholas Evan "Nick" Berg was an American businessman who went to Iraq after the US invasion of Iraq. He was abducted and later beheaded according to a video released in May 2004 by Islamist militants...

    's murder on their morning program several times, accompanied by music, jokes, and laughter over the scenes. The pair were fired on the same day.
  • April 4, 2007: Don Imus
    Don Imus
    John Donald "Don" Imus, Jr. is an American radio host, humorist, philanthropist and writer. His nationally-syndicated talk show, Imus in the Morning, is broadcast throughout the United States by Citadel Media and relayed on television by the Fox Business Network.-Personal life:Imus was born in...

     referred to the Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos" on his morning radio show. On April 9, MSNBC
    MSNBC is a cable news channel based in the United States available in the US, Germany , South Africa, the Middle East and Canada...

     and CBS Radio
    CBS Radio
    CBS Radio, Inc., formerly known as Infinity Broadcasting Corporation, is one of the largest owners and operators of radio stations in the United States, third behind main rival Clear Channel Communications and Cumulus Media. CBS Radio owns around 130 radio stations across the country...

     suspended Imus from his radio and television shows for two weeks, and MSNBC
    MSNBC is a cable news channel based in the United States available in the US, Germany , South Africa, the Middle East and Canada...

     canceled its simulcast
    Simulcast, shorthand for "simultaneous broadcast", refers to programs or events broadcast across more than one medium, or more than one service on the same medium, at the same time. For example, Absolute Radio is simulcast on both AM and on satellite radio, and the BBC's Prom concerts are often...

     of "Imus in the Morning" on April 11; Imus was fired from CBS Radio the following day.
  • May 15, 2007: XM suspended Opie and Anthony
    Opie and Anthony
    Opie and Anthony are the hosts of The Opie & Anthony Show, a talk radio program airing in the United States and Canada on XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio. Since the merger of the two satellite companies, this is now called Sirius/XM...

     for 30 days after a homeless man making a guest appearance described how he would like to have a threesome with the United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and First Lady Laura Bush, and abused Queen Elizabeth II.
  • October 18, 2008: (UK) BBC Radio 2 host Russell Brand
    Russell Brand
    Russell Edward Brand is an English comedian, actor, columnist, singer, author and radio/television presenter.Brand achieved mainstream fame in the UK in 2004 for his role as host of Big Brother spin-off, Big Brother's Big Mouth. His first major film role was in the 2007 film St Trinians...

     was fired for calling Fawlty Towers' Andrew Sachs and leaving an answering machine message claiming that he had had sex with his granddaughter.
  • July 29, 2009: On his morning breakfast radio show, Australian DJ Kyle Sandilands
    Kyle Sandilands
    Kyle Dalton Sandilands is an Australian radio and TV personality. He is currently the host with Jacqueline Henderson, better known as Jackie O, on the weekday morning radio program The Kyle and Jackie O Show on Sydney radio station 2Day FM, The Kyle and Jackie O Hour of Power which airs on...

     provoked outrage when his "Lie Detector
    Lie Detector
    "Lie Detector" is a CD single by The Reverend Horton Heat. It was released in October 1998 on Sub Pop.-Personnel:*Jim "Reverend Horton" Heath - lead vocals, guitar*Jimbo Wallace - upright bass, vocals*Scott Churilla - drums, vocals...

    " segment featured a 14 year old girl who, when quizzed on her sexual history by her mother, broke down, revealing she had been raped at the age of 12. Kyle then blew this off saying her mother meant any intercourse other than rape. The show was suspended for one week. Sandilands provoked further outrage three days after his suspension expired when he made a slur about Jenny Craig
    Jenny Craig
    Jenny Craig is an American weight loss guru and founder of Jenny Craig, Inc. Craig was raised in New Orleans and married Sidney Harvey Craig in 1979. In 1983, she and her husband created a nutrition, fitness, and weight loss program in Australia...

     ambassador Magda Szubanski
    Magda Szubanski
    Magda Szubanski is a British-born Australian actress, comedian, television presenter, radio host and author.Szubanski's career began while she was studying at university and she progressed to television sketch comedy, as both a writer and performer...

    , saying she could have lost more weight in a concentration camp. Sandilands was suspended for ten days without pay, and after a review on September 18, had his suspension extended by three weeks. Sandilands returned to air on October 8, apologized for the incident, and was blessed by a priest at the start of the show.

External links