Watchdog Group Questions Stern's Suitability for "Talent" | NBC Southern California

Watchdog Group Questions Stern's Suitability for "Talent"

Shock Jock to replace Piers Morgan as judge

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    Howard Stern announced on Thursday that he would be joining the judges table - but is he too vulgar for family TV? (Published Friday, Dec. 16, 2011)

    Let the backlash begin.

    In the search for a new judge to succeed Piers Morgan on NBC's highly rated "America's Got Talent," the network and the show's producers did not let risk of controversy deter them from their choice: mega shock jock Howard Stern.

    Yes, the same Howard Stern that WNBC radio let go two decades ago because of his raunchy penchant for pushing the envelope.  The same Stern who in recent years left terrestial radio altogether for the freedom from FCC regulation (not to mention the money) offered by satellite
    radio.  The same Stern who causes cringing in crusaders for decency in broadcasting.

    Stern revealed the agreement on his program with the flourish of having his agent bring in the contract for Stern to sign on the air.

    "You might think I'm out of my mind.  You might think I'm crazy.  But I take judging very seriously," Stern told his SiriusXM listeners and webcast viewers.

    "Howard Stern's larger than life personality will bring a thrilling new dynamic to America's Got Talent," said Paul Telegdy, president of NBC's Alternative and Late Night Programming.  Stern promised, "I'm going to be Piers on steroids."

    It is widely speculated this new gig will earn Stern another $15 to 20 million a year, though nobody's confirming the number.

    Stern will be joining returning judges Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel, but wants them to know who will be the boss.

    "My opinion is the one that matters...This nonsense of Howie and Sharon putting through less than talented people has gotta stop," Stern decreed.

    Now underway around the country are auditions for prospective talent to compete during AGT's seventh season.  Stern said he expects to begin shooting in February.

    To accommodate Stern, AGT will relocate from Los Angeles to New York, where he will continue to do his daily satellite radio program.

    Stern has long been waiting for his shot at primetime.  But is primetime ready for Stern?

    "I think NBC has made a big mistake," said Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council. Winter characterized Stern as the "poster child for shock jock profanity, obscenity, indecency -- the absolute opposite of everything that is  family friendly." Winter fears that families with children will lose one of the few widely popular family programs remaining on nighttime network TV.

    AGT continued to grab strong ratings with Morgan on the team.  Last summer it consistently outperformed all other network series.  But NBC allowed Morgan to leave to pursue opportunities at CNN, where he had succeeded Larry King.

    Viewers are intrigued by the prospect of Stern at the judging table.

    "I think that he's going to be bleep, bleep, bleep, bleeped out, so I don't know," said Linda Wong with a giggle as she exited the Trader Joe's in Toluca Lake. 

    Daniel Keough of Hollywood expects Stern will be great.  "He's a very funny guy,"  said Keough.  "He knows how to censor himself."

    But the question is, will he?

    Winter of the Parents Television Council said he has no doubt Stern is capable of
    doing so. 

    "Absolutely, he's a smart guy. And I hope that's the case.  I hope this is much ado about nothing," Winter said.

    But Winter remains to be convinced NBC would hire Stern on the condition he self-Bowdlerize.

    "You don't bring someone who's known for something and then have them do something completely different on your show," Winter said.

    Transitioning to TV has not always gone smoothly for mega radio personalities. During Rush Limbaugh's stint on ESPN as a football commentator, outrage ensued from his speculation that race played a role in one quarterback getting favorable reviews in the media.  After three weeks, Limbaugh stepped down.

    Now it's Stern's turn to adapt his persona to primetime TV.  One reality Stern faces is FCC decency regulations that apply to programs broadcast before 10pm, as is "America's Got Talent."

    A challenge to those decency regulations will be heard next month by the US Supreme Court, which has the power to overturn them.

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