A Stern Fan Goes Undercover:
Memoirs from CIA-Hole Agent #008
Ever since Howard began syndicating his show across America, he's had numerous problems with the affiliates that carry him. Local program directors in each market have long been a pain in Howard's side because of the theories that they employ during the broadcast of his show. They argue that in order for Stern to succeed in their market, they must give a local feel to show and therefore meddle with the actual presentation of the show. Howard's first station on the network, 94 WYSP Philadelphia, has been no exception.
Howard debuted in Philadelphia in 1986 with Andy Bloom the program director. Back then no one syndicated morning radio. It was the common belief that the morning team had to be local. It had to be familiar with its city's streets, rejoice in the local team's victory, and complain about the bottleneck on the local freeway. Andy had that same belief. WYSP was the first station to institute thorough news and traffic reports every break. They also inserted unhip "Lettermanesque" bumpers to segue way back to the live broadcast.
I can remember way back in 1986 when Howard complained about the extended news and traffic reports on WYSP that would sometimes run over the actual live broadcast. In many instances WYSP would return to the show in the middle of dialogue leaving Philadelphia listeners in the dark about what Howard was talking about. WYSP's presentation of the show set a dangerous precedent for all new stations that would follow. Andy would soon bring these same ideas that he instituted at WYSP to KLSX Los Angeles in 1991.
In fact because the Los Angeles broadcast is tape delayed KLSX officials did a lot more damage than WYSP ever could. At the very start of the L.A. broadcast KLSX was given the permission to edit out all references to K-Rock because there is a station in Los Angeles with the same name, KROQ. This permission to cut was too tempting for KLSX not to abuse. In February 1992, numerous reports came out of Los Angeles that whole chunks of the show were being edited out. Howard confronted the KLSX overnight guys who tape the show to see if there was any validity to these reports. Under harsh examination they admitted that Andy had told them, "If Howard starts to 'ramble' on about New York topics, you are free to cut. "This of course drove Howard nuts. Also the same bad "Lettermanesque" bumpers that Andy had in Philly he also used in L.A. inspiring Howard to create his own hard rock bumpers with Paul Turner.
As Howard's empire began to grow so did the affiliate violations. A $105,000 FCC fine leveled against KLSX in 1992 started extensive editing of the show in Los Angeles. KEGL Dallas and WLUP Chicago signing on in late 1992, began his show at 5AM against the wishes of Howard. (Both later gave in and aired it at 6AM). In early 1993, Howard complained about the on air banter during the breaks at WLUP, and had an on air confrontation with the Dallas GM over the extensive news and traffic reports. Also in 1993, Howard's Cleveland Indian Gilligan Island bit was completely edited out over WNCX Cleveland. And in February 1994, a $73,000 FCC fine against KFBI started the editing of the show in Las Vegas. In April 1995, Howard's controversial statements about Selena prompt KEGL Dallas, KAMZ El Paso, and KLSX to play disclaimers during the show. Howard's problems with the affiliates prompted me to get a hold of the broadcast from each one of the markets.
Howard's problems with the affiliates came to a head on June 7, 1995. During his show that day, Howard found out that his San Diego affiliate XTRA-FM, a.k.a. 91X, was editing out his Paul Turner bumpers. 91X's excuse was that Paul Turner's hard rock bumpers did not match the sound or feel of 91X so they decided it would be better to replace him with their own announcer making "witty" comments.
On June 9, 1995 Howard got a hold of the 91X bumpers that they replaced Paul Turner with and he went ballistic. Soon there were phone calls as to what the other affiliates were doing with the show, and Howard began talking about all the meddling his individual stations were doing with the show. Jim Stark, break-in man of WQBK Albany, was offended by Howard's comments and decided to defend himself over the Albany airwaves. An Albany fan who was actually taping the show that morning called Howard and played Stark's comments. Howard sensing good radio confronted Stark right on the air. Stark was so incensed that he that he threatened to resign right there. It was that Albany caller and his tape machine that caught Stark in the middle of nonsense. Howard seeing the value of his taping audience decided to create a secret detective force all around the country that would tape his show every day and send in station infractions to him. Howard named this force his CIA-Holes and rewarded his hard working Albany fan by making him CIA-Hole #001.
I have been taping the show every day in the entirety ever since 1993 and thought that I should also be a CIA-Hole here in Los Angeles. I called WXRK that morning and asked them if they needed somebody in Los Angeles monitoring the show. After all, there were plenty of Stern infractions going on at KLSX. KLSX, not unlike 91X, was also editing out the Paul Turner Bumpers with their "Lettermanesque" bumpers, editing out the Maria Malito during Best of..., and creating what I call "artificial" breaks. That's when KLSX interrupts right in the middle of Howard's dialogue with a "We'll be right back" cart and inserts a commercial break that wasn't there on the original live broadcast.
To my disappointment the intern that answered the phone at WXRK told me that they already had an informant in Los Angeles. But I wasn't willing to quit my campaign to become an agent. My good friend Melrose Larry Green was in New York at the time and was about to appear on the show. I told him on the phone to let Howard know about the major infraction that 91X was committing that Howard was not aware of. Ever since Howard premiered in San Diego in February 1995, 91X edited out every Jackie plug and the plugs at the end of the show. When Melrose appeared on the show on June 13,1995 he told Howard that this was going on at 91X. Howard went nuts when he heard the news, and stated that I should become a CIA-Hole.
The next morning I contacted Baba Booey and played him the San Diego infraction. I also played him a Chicago violation: WCKG at the time was editing out the Fred Norris pre show, and of course told him what was going on here in Los Angeles. That morning on the show Gary came on urging the affiliates to not edit out the plugs, pre-show or fiddle with the content in any way. That afternoon, Gary called me at work and asked me if I wanted to be a CIA-Hole. I gladly accepted and became CIA-Hole Agent #008, one of two here in Los Angeles.
Since being an agent I have reported these crimes: 91X editing out the Jackie plugs; KLSX playing Robin Quivers bumpers over Paul Turner and taking numerous artificial breaks; show disclaimers over KEGL; David Letterman top-10 list and very lengthy promos and show clips for the Tom Leykis and Carla Foxx shows at K-HOT Phoenix; WCKG editing out the pre-show; and (KLSX) Real Radio 97.1's playing two traffic reports each break.
While I don't claim full credit, because there are other CIA-Holes at work, each one of the violations I cited above has been from my knowledge corrected. Although, I do hear KLSX slipping in an artificial break now and then.
Even though the CIA-Holes have accomplished a lot, we cannot sit back on our laurels. The stations still try to put their signature on the show. Here in Los Angeles the Real Radio format has the morning traffic reporter cracking jokes. Real Radio 97.1 also slips in a sound bite of Howard saying that "This is the Howard Stern Radio Network" about two to four times a week, sounding dangerously close to endorsing radio consultant Walt Sabo's experiment with KLSX. The last time I checked, Real Radio 104.1 (WTKS) Orlando referred to itself as the "Howard Stern Station." KFBI during the breaks presents "The KFBI Sports Page" providing local and national sports news and scores. And lastly, KEDJ Phoenix has during the breaks "The Edge Music News" informing listeners about bands coming to town.
The CIA-Holes across the country must remain vigilant. The program directors will forever try to meddle with the show insisting that without their help, the show will fail in their market. Well, we as Stern fans know, that it is not the local news, weather, and sports or wacky jingles and ID's that make the show successful, it's the show that makes the show successful. And until the local PD's realize this point, we CIA-Holes will always have a job to do.
©1995 The K.O.A.M. Newsletter. All Rights Reserved.