Shock jock

From Academic Kids

A shock jock is a slang term used to describe a type of radio broadcaster (sometimes a disk jockey) who attracts attention using humor that a significant portion of the listening audience may find offensive. The term is usually used pejoratively to describe evocative or irreverent broadcasters whose manners and on-air behavior is offensive to the speaker.



The idea of a performer or entertainer that breaks taboos or places their careers in the realm of the currently offensive is not a new one. Despite insistences of some decency activists, there are few eras of history in which there have not existed notoriously offensive performers (Benny Bell, Le Pétomane, to name a few). Shock jocks, as the current incarnation of this phenomenon, entered the American radio scene during the 1980s, and are still common into the 2000s.

Shock jocks may be informally identified by a number of common behaviors or conditions. Many such broadcasters revel in the fact (or belief) that a good portion of their listening audience consists of people who strongly dislike them; which of course, is an ironic but welcome boost to the broadcaster's ratings.

Shock jocks also tend to push the envelope of decency in their market, and generally show a lack of regard for communications regulations (e.g. FCC rules) regarding content. It is not at all uncommon for a shock jock to find him/herself fined by regulators for "going too far"; in fact, some broadcasters consider such an incident as a badge of honor. Also, such incidents are typically followed by a media circus, which of course provides more promotion for the broadcaster and brings more attention to their antics.

Popular envelope-pushing topics for shock jocks include sex, especially kinky and/or scatalogical topics, or just unabashed innuendo. Dialogue approaching or committing thinly veiled or excused racism, homophobia, exploitation of women, ridicule of the disabled, etc., are also tools of the shock trade. One increasingly common theme of shock jocks is to promote weekly highway "flashing" days, with names such as "Flash Friday", where women are encouraged to expose themselves to other motorists.

Many shock jocks have been fired as a result of such punishments as regulatory fines, loss of advertisers, 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 U.S. are under greater pressure since the introduction of a new law in March 2004 which increased the fines on radio stations for violating decency guidelines by a factor of nearly 20.

Famous incidents

Some major popularized incidents involving shock jocks:

  • On May 19, 2005, Opie and Anthony encourages listeners to hold up signs during live news broadcasts. One of the show's staff stepped behind CBS reporter Arthur Chi'en holding an Opie and Anthony poster. After finishing the last syllable of his report, Chi'en turned to the staff member and yelled "What the fuck is your problem, man?" before the studio could cut to the pre-recorded segment of the report. The obscenity was aired live, and despite his apology, Chi'en was fired later that day.
  • May 12, 2004: Marconi and Tiny, two Portland, Oregon disk jockeys, played the audio portion of the video of Nick Berg's murder on their morning program several times, accompanied by music, jokes, and laughter over the scenes. The pair was fired the same day.
  • April 8, 2004: Howard Stern's show was dropped by Clear Channel Communications the few stations of theirs that had carried the show after they were fined $495,000 USD for a variety of individual statements made in a single Stern show. Stern used his remaining market share to criticize Clear Channel and the Bush Administration.
  • January, 2004: Clear Channel is fined $715,000 USD for an airing of radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge, which included (among other things) a scene involving explicit sexual conversations between children's cartoon characters. Bubba is fired shortly thereafter.
  • August 23, 2002: New York shockers Opie and Anthony hold an annual contest for listeners who receive points for having sex in interesting places or circumstances. A couple is arrested for having sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York, and the disk jockeys are fired from WNEW shortly thereafter.
  • February 27, 2001: Bubba the Love Sponge has a pig castrated and killed on-air. Bubba is charged with animal cruelty, but acquitted.
  • April 1, 1998: Opie and Anthony are fired from Boston radio station WAAF for an April Fool's Day prank announcing that the mayor of Boston had been killed in an accident. The pair are soon hired by New York station WNEW.
  • April, 1995: On the Don Imus radio show, U.S. Senator Al D'Amato puts on a comical Asian accent and criticizes judge Lance Ito for personal interest in allowing television cameras in the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Imus is criticized for keeping D'Amato on air because of the shock value of the senator's comments.

Noted shock jocks

Evocative or outspoken broadcasters have been branded with the "shock jock" label across all ends of the spectrum of radio (and TV) broadcasters. Most range from the sexually indecent to the politically offense. Some broadcasters variously identified as "shock jocks" include:

United States

United Kingdom

Other countries

External Links


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