It’s no secret that the terrestrial radio industry, much like the record industry that feeds it, is on a plummeting downward spiral of profitability – industry-wide layoffs have been rampant in recent years and the public has considerably less tolerance for cookie-cutter payola formatting these days (not to mention all those goddamned commercials). It does come as a bit of a surprise, however, that even the awards system designed to honor radio personalities is impossibly flawed and quite clearly as rigged and hopeless as the medium it recognizes.
The National Radio Hall of Fame & Museum was established to honor the best and brightestof broadcast history. To date, more than 150 shows and personalities have been inducted – so one would undoubtedly expect to find radio legend and Sirius XM satellite crossover Howard Stern high among the ranks of those recognized by the hall. Right? Not doing so, as Stern himself put it, “would be like if they created a superhero hall of fame and they decided to keep Superman out of it.”
Stern isn’t in the Radio Hall of Fame. Nowhere is he mentioned in their ranks.
The NRHOF, who bill themselves as America’s only Radio Hall of Fame, “recognizes and showcases contemporary talent from today’s diverse programming formats, as well as the pioneers who shaped the medium during its infancy.” Stern isn’t recognized, despite the fact that he’s dominated every major broadcast market and massively impacted the modern disc jockey persona, as well as enabling and almost single-handedly supporting the vitality of an infant industry (satellite radio).
Stern’s paranoia and insistence that everyone hates him is far from the lunatic ramblings of an aging shock-jock who thinks he’s gotten a raw deal; his outright exile from the ranks of “respectable” radio personalities (like Rick Dees) among the allegedly esteemed broadcasting ranks is glaring and impossible to deny. Howard’s long been the chief example among most old-guard broadcast heads of everything crude and abominable about modern radio, and Stern’s troubles with stonewalling, hypocritical hyperconservatives has persisted throughout his entire career. It’s no wonder that he now speaks frequently of retirement on his show.
The NRHOF recognizes small-market sports announcers and fringe-market players you’ve never heard of, but there’s never been a single Stern mention. Milo Hamilton. Ernie Harwell. Michael Jackson (not that one). Rush fucking Limbaugh, a man best known for his drug bust and hysterically hateful far-right rants that call to action the curdling cream of America’s troglodyte crop. They celebrate the “cultural satire, personal insults and ribald humor” of hate-mongering codger Don Imus, yet refuse to even so much as recognize Stern as a player in the game, let alone the all-time MVP of radio that he’s become over the course of his exemplary career. He may have been nominated in 2008, but nothing came of it.
Meanwhile, the media’s fawning over the weekly Bob Dylan show, in which the decrepit icon discusses such hot-button topics as how to get blood out of clothing and whether or not the guy who invented the graham cracker is against masturbation (I’m not making this up). Joel McHale’s favorite clip mine Wendy Williams was inducted into the National Radio Hall Of Fame last week, offering an unrequested blubbering acceptance speech on her television show. Williams has openly stated that she’s modeled her career after Howard’s, yet there’s not a single mention of him from Bruce DuMont, the chairman of the NRHOF. To his credit, DuMont did make an offer to Howard: for the low price of $8 million, Stern could buy the unfinished building originally meant to house the Radio Hall of Fame (they ran out of money) and do whatever he pleased with it.
It’s not hard to grasp why at this point, even if he were to be officially recognized, Stern has no interest in being included in the sham fiasco that is the Radio Hall of Fame.
“The Radio Hall Of Fame is a joke,” Howard said on his Sirius XM show earlier this week, “and it has to be a joke for anyone in radio for one reason: I’m not in it. There is such a glaring omission in the Radio Hall Of Fame. I’m probably the most important broadcaster and certainly one of the most hated, beloved, controversial and certainly one of the most successful broadcasters of the last 30 years.”
That may sound outlandish to the uninformed, but Howard was actually being modest. He is far and away the most successful radio broadcaster in history. In 2006, Stern was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine, and was ranked as the world’s 7th most powerful celebrity by Forbes. He’s an ultra-icon, having conquered the New York Times’ bestsellers list twice, released a successful major Hollywood film in which he starred, had a number one film soundtrack and his own television show. Even now, his paying listener base is over 6 million strong – that’s three times what Letterman or Conan pull each night on network TV.
Yet, somehow, that’s not good enough for the National Radio Hall of Fame.