Dateline: May 28, 1997

91X Lost Stern After Rants Stirred Mexico's Rancor!
By John Freeman

Howard Stern's radio show was moved April 30 from 91X/FM to Rock 105.3/FM. That's an undisputed fact. But what is in dispute is why Jacor Broadcasting -- which operates both stations -- moved 91X's highest-rated show to Rock 105.3.

According to documents obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune, the owner of 91X/FM, a Rosarito Beach-based firm known as XETRA Comunicaciones, was forced to remove Stern from 91X/FM to avoid disciplinary sanctions by the Mexican government.

A copy of a letter from XETRA's attorney to Enrique Rubio, Mexico's director general of the Department of Radio, Television and Cinematography, states that XETRA/FM agreed to "suspend starting April 30 the program of Howard Stern that is presently broadcasting on this station."

Those Spanish-language documents contradict statements made by the management of 91X/FM, which has insisted that Mexico placed no pressure on the station. Jack Evans, regional vice president/programming for Jacor Broadcasting's stations in San Diego, characterized the Mexican government's actions against the Stern show as "concern, not pressure" to move it.

"As we were acquiring our radio stations from (previous owners) Noble, Nationwide, Gannett and Par, it was always our intention to realign the morning shows based on format compatibilities," said Evans.

Irreverent, Risque

Jacor Broadcasting executives have claimed that the main reason for the switch was that Rock 105/FM, which has a contemporary hard-rock format, better fits Stern's irreverent, risque form of social satire.

While Stern's show clearly better fits Rock 105/FM's male-dominated audience, the evidence indicates that Jacor had no choice but to move it to one of its other stations, one licensed by the U.S. government. (Jacor's roster of San Diego stations includes Rock 105/FM, KOGO/AM, KSDO/AM, KKBH/FM, Channel 93.3, KGB/FM, and KPOP/AM. In addition, it owns U.S. sales and marketing rights to 91X/FM and XTRA/AM, which are owned by Mexican businessman John Detmold. (He did not respond to repeated phone calls to his Rosarito Beach home.).

Why did the Mexican government -- officially, the country's Department of Radio, Television and Cinematography, located in Mexico City -- act to remove Stern from 91X/FM?

According to documents, the government was incensed at Stern's repeated anti-Mexican remarks, especially those during shows that aired late last year. The government charged that such remarks violated Mexican law.

"(The program) offends the essential human dignity . . . of people in our country (and) demerits the values of the Mexican nationality," reads the translated document. It also states: "It is perceived in the absurd speech of Howard Stern the intention of generating the impression of intolerance and hostility of Mexicans toward Americans (that) contradicts the permanent effort of the government of our country to promote the cordial relations and growing flow of tourist travel."

Characteristic Rants

What did Stern say that the Mexican government found so offensive?

On Dec. 20, according to the documents, he went on one of his characteristic rants, aimed against Mexico. Sample comments included: "I think they should build a gigantic wall around the United States. . . . Illegal immigration is killing this country. We can't support them. We can't take care of them. . . . It's a disaster."

Stern then stated: "They hate us, and what have we done to Mexico? . . . I went there on my honeymoon and let me tell you, the hostility I felt. I was at Acapulco Princess (hotel). It's a swindle for tourists. They think you're dumb. They think you're going to get off of (the) bus and buy their trash they sell at the side of the road. Oh, the look they give you, a look (of), you disgusting American."

Then, according to the transcript, Stern made explicit comic references to "donkey shows" in Mexico.

Jacor's Evans said that Detmold, the station's owner, asked if Stern's show could be moved off 91X/FM. In addition, he said, some 91X/FM advertisers had expressed concerns.

"We looked at his concerns and the opportunities we had and it made sense to make the changes we did," said Evans.

Recordings and Transcripts

So how did the Mexican government agency become so active in the Stern controversy? And who sent the recordings and transcripts to the agency?

Victor Diaz, who until recently was president of Z90/FM, a rival station to 91X/FM, said he was a major part of that effort. Several months ago, Diaz joined with a Spring Valley-based minister, the Rev. Samuel Fosu-Mensah, who has formed the activist group End Radio Air Smut Effectively (ERASE).

Diaz said he and the Rev. Fosu-Mensah went to the Mexican Consulate in San Diego, as well as to Mexico's Secretariat of Communications in Mexico City. Their complaint was that Stern's show contained indecent material that was offensive and harmful to youngsters who might be listening.

Diaz said he has contributed to ERASE, but he declined to say to what extent. In recent months, ERASE has taken out two half-page ads (costing approximately $5,000 each) in the Union-Tribune that decry "pornography" in local morning radio. (Five other local stations were cited, all owned by Jacor.)

"I support his organization because I believe that children shouldn't be exposed to that kind of filth," said Diaz.

Lourdes Sandoval, spokeswoman for the Mexican Consulate in San Diego, said, "We only voiced our concerns (about Stern to the Mexican Secretary of Communications). . . . In Mexico, it's very difficult to defend a Mexican radio station having a disc jockey making those kind of comments. It's insulting to our people and to our country."

According to a copy of a summons sent from Mexico's Department of Radio, Television and Cinematography to XETRA's attorneys, XETRA was cited for violating Mexican law, including "Article 5, Sections I, III and IV, and Article 63 of the Federal Radio and Television Law," among others.

Last week, Stern -- whose vulgar, combative style is part of his multimedia appeal on his syndicated radio show, his two best-selling books and a recent movie ("Private Parts") that's based on his career -- vowed that he plans "to take on" the leaders of ERASE. He then ridiculed a list of his alleged misdeeds, as printed in a recent ERASE fund-raising letter.

Stern's antics that day and every morning since May 1 were heard on Rock 105/FM, a station operated and licensed in the United States.

Said Evans: "We have something here called freedom of speech. That's the difference."

On today's show, Howard reacted to this article by saying, "Anytime the Mexican Government hates me, I must be doing something right."

Special Thanks To JOHN FREEMAN
and The San Diego Union Tribune For This Story.


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