May 1998 –As Howard Stern continues his drive toward becoming “The King of All Media,” he keeps hitting a speed bump: the American Family Association. The shock-jock persists in blasting AFA for its unrelenting pressure on the sponsors of The Howard Stern Show, his pornographic daily radio program.
Stern broadcasts five hours daily, five days a week in almost 50 major radio markets. Recurring themes and activities of the show include: undressing women in the radio studio during a live broadcast; Stern’s fantasies with lesbians; incredibly disgusting scatological humor; blasphemy; masturbation; violent sex; bestiality; and sadomasochism.
If Stern is intoxicated by success in his media endeavors, he has reason to be. Stern’s radio show continues to enter new markets where he often moves into the number one spot. Stern was also honored at the Fourth Annual Blockbuster Entertainment Awards on March 10, where he received recognition as “Male Newcomer of the Year.”
Perhaps most disappointing for pro-family groups, CBS has given a network television platform for Stern’s crude persona with a Saturday night TV show. Expected to air initially in August, Stern will be going head-to-head with NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
“Take the heat off us”
But all is not peachy in Howard Stern’s media orchard. The lone pit is AFA, which continues to target the sponsors of his repulsive radio refuse through a campaign – called The Stern Project – headed by Bill Johnson of AFA Michigan. Stern’s show has been monitored in numerous markets throughout the country, and sponsors of the radio program have received letters complaining of the lewd content.
Johnson reports that 84% of the show’s sponsors have dropped the radio program since monitoring began. At least one of these advertisers had been spending $500,000 per year.
On his March 27 show, Stern was discussing the fledgling Gay Entertainment Television enterprise with a spokesman. Stern warned, “You know what’s going to happen with the gay channel? Some religious idiot is going to complain, and then you’re going to get thrown off the dial…People like Jerry Falwell and [Don] Wildmon with his American Family Association. Wildmon has no followers but he sends a thousand cards to my advertisers every day. Wait’l you guys have WFAG [television] and it’s going to be out of control. I’m telling you, man, I know these guys.”
Wishing the Gay TV representative the best of luck, Stern said he would personally be very supportive. “Let’s promote this heavily, because if [AFA gets] concerned with Gay TV they’ll leave us alone….Anybody that can take the heat off us, I’m for it,” Stern said.
Two days earlier, Stern had again complained about continued pressure on his advertisers, saying his show was being “deluged” by letters and cards and “under siege” from AFA.
Drawing a line in the sand
In an interview with Johnson, AFA president Donald E. Wildmon said he felt the early effectiveness of the Stern Project was indicative of how individuals could impact their community with even a small act.
“Let me tell you the reason this project is so monumental. This will send a massive message to other advertisers: stay away from trash. There are people who care. There are people who will get involved. There are people who will spend their money with other companies,” said Wildmon. “If Howard Stern’s advertisers leave, this would send a powerful, powerful message to anyone who wants to imitate Howard Stern. Watch out, because the money is not there to support you on this.”
Johnson encouraged others to get involved by contacting the national sponsors of Stern’s program. “We need people to convince these advertisers that it’s about more than ‘dollars and cents.’ It’s about responsible advertising,” said Johnson. “It’s about protecting the hearts and minds of our children. It’s about drawing a line in the sand and saying Howard Stern goes too far.”