The musings of one Andrew Langer - defender of liberty, passionate protector of individual rights, foodie. (Note: Said Musings of Andrew Langer are his own, and the views represented herein are likewise his views, and not the views of any other people, entities, foodstuffs, etc [unless otherwise specifically and explicitly noted].)

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

CBS: The _C_ry _B_aby _S_ystem

I don't know about you, but if I had been working for a company for years, had made them the equivalent of a small nation's economy in profits and gotten little in the way of support for my trouble, given them plenty of notice before my departure and made them still more money before I left, only to have them sue me when my replacement fell flat on his face, I'd be more than a bit miffed.

When the rumors started flying that CBS might file suit against Howard Stern, part of me said, "there's no way! CBS wouldn't do something so patently stupid."

Then I remembered that it's America in 2006, the era of "poor l'il ol' me" litigation, and said to myself, "Of course they're going to sue."

What's astounding to me are the following things:

1) That CBS had ample opportunity to kick Stern off the air between the date he announced his departure and the date that he finally left. In fact, other CBS personalities were urging this, and while a guest on Stern's show, Donald Trump at one point expressed his own incredulity that Stern hadn't been fired. If Trump were in charge of CBS, he said, he'd have kicked Stern off the air that very day;

2) That CBS did suspend Stern at one point for talking about Sirius. But they continued to keep him on the air afterwards;

3) That CBS made millions upon millions of dollars on Stern and his show between the date of his announcement and his departure;

4) That it was CBS' own lack of support that led to Stern deciding to ultimately leave terrestrial radio.

We talked about some of those circumstances earlier on the blog - the issue of the heavy-hand of government driving Stern from the airwaves. Had CBS been willing to support Stern and defend itself against FCC overreaching, then he might have stayed.

It's fairly clear that this is a desperate move by CBS. Now, don't get me wrong: I'm a huge fan of the Junkies, and was always a bigger Don and Mike fan than a Howard Stern fan (I'll put it to you this way: in the mornings while Stern was on, I tended to flip from his show to NPR to Pacifica to the Junkies to TOP, etc. At night I keep it on Don & Mike, switching over to traffic on TOP during commercials.). But in the post-Stern CBS/Infinity era, apparently Stern's replacement's (David Lee Roth, Rover, and Adam Carolla [who I like on TV]) are sucking hind teat. Roth has got, literally, 1/10th of Stern's listeners.

It's funny, because it reminds me of the oft-lampooned-on-Don&Mike George Lopez made-for-tv movie character, "The Bum" from, I think it was called Naughty or Nice. Anyhow, "The Bum" is a DJ who starts losing his audience precipitously, and cannot believe that he lost half his audience in three days.

Roth, in reality, has managed to lose 90% of Stern's audience in the space of two months.

CBS is desperate, and desperate entities do desperate things. But the desperate acts of desperate people rarely work.

I'm looking for a link to the full 43-page complaint. If anyone finds one, please let me know.

But shame on you, CBS. You made a prodigious sum of money on Stern, didn't treat him right, he left, you didn't plan adequately for the post-Stern era, and now you're reaping the what you've sown.

You don't get another bite at the apple... unless you want to make a deal to give Stern back his best-of tapes...

- Andrew Langer


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad someone is sticking up for Howard Stern. He's such a victim of our society and someone really needs to stand up for the little guy (yes- that _is_ sarcasm). So- no plans to comment on the Fieldston controversy after all?

March 01, 2006 11:05 AM

Blogger Andrew Langer said...

No, I'm still planning on commenting on the Fieldston brouhaha, I just haven't had a chance to really ruminate on it - I'll have a little more time towards the end of the week.

On the other hand, the Stern thing is _really_ current, I've written on the subject before, the lawsuit really irked me, and my thoughts on it fell into place rather quickly.

I'd put the shoe on the other foot in this case, though - is CBS really such a "victim" that they need to seek redress through the courts? $500 million worth of redress?

Like him or not, in filing such a vindictive and malicious lawsuit against him, CBS _has_ made Stern a victim - not of society, mind you, but of one entity. This lawsuit will cost him money (and lots of it). It will take his valuable time. It will demand his attention.

In fact, CBS is completely undermining its position by filing this suit: they are _making_ Stern into a sympathetic victim. What's more, they are going to drive _more_ people to listen to his show. They are giving him _more_ free publicity.

As I said, if CBS had had a real problem with Stern's chatter about Sirius Radio following his deal, they should have kicked him off the air, permanently (as Trump said he would have). But they didn't do that. They kept him on the air and instead of looking to rebuild for the long term, kept their short sights on the money they could make (and did make) in the 14 months before he finally departed.

If Stern had actively worked to sabotage CBS' advertising revenues during those 14 months, then they might have a point. In fact, CBS did everything they could to maximize their ad program, tailoring it specifically to a swansong for their two-decade cash cow.

It's not Stern's fault that David Lee Roth, Rover, and Adam Carolla aren't having traction with the fans. It's not Stern's fault that CBS' revenues have dropped off as a result.

No, it's because of CBS' behavior in not supporting and defending the Stern show that made Stern's choice to leave that much easier. Perhaps if they had defended his first amendment rights he might have felt more comfortable to stay.

CBS got a great things for a long time. But all good things must come to an end sometime.

Crap like this irks me. It irks me even more when it's the FCC - which apparently is going to start levying more fines for questionable broadcast content.

But at least in the case of the FCC, they haven't made big bank on the person they're suing.

And again, anon, it's good to hear from you. You're welcome to e-mail me, too.

- Andrew

March 01, 2006 2:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not arguing your point- so save your breath- I just think it's a fairly trite subject to be wasting intellectual power on.

I, too, have email.

March 01, 2006 7:55 PM

Blogger Andrew Langer said...

...and I've sent you an e-mail.

But on your point, in the scheme of things, you're right - there are more important issues. But sometimes this blog runs the gamut, and occasionally I have an urge to rant about something that annoys me that doesn't have to do with fundamental issues of individual rights.

March 01, 2006 8:44 PM


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