Brought to You by…. You!
January 6, 2015
TV is the New Radio
January 20, 2015


Sex sells.  Just ask anyone in advertising.  It might be subtle or full frontal assault, but the allure of sex attracts and commands attention.

On the public airwaves of AM/FM, the Federal Communications Commission governs and regulates content.  And it is a violation of federal law to air obscene programming at any time.  It is also a violation of federal law to air indecent programming or profane language during certain hours.

Most broadcasters err on the side of caution, because FCC penalties for violating these laws can range from steep fines to the revocation of a station license.  And any radio owner will tell you their #1 priority, night and day, is to protect their license.

My first job in radio found me producing a rotating weekday line-up of talk show guests, from an automotive expert to a pet psychologist.  On Tuesdays, Dr. Abby Stitt, a thickly-European-accented author of the book “Sexually Speaking,” answered calls about sexuality.  I screened the calls and coached callers on the “right” way to ask their sexual questions, always ready to hit the “dump” button and activate the seven-second delay when someone crossed the line.

Dr. Stitt’s show lasted only a couple of months, but a couple of years later another European immigrant blew open radio’s doors for sexual content.  Dr. Ruth Westheimer’s 15-minute, Sunday after midnight show on WYNY-FM/New York became an instant hit, expanding quickly to a full hour and then syndicating nationwide by 1984.

Sex advice shows flourished on radio in the late 80s, walking the fine line between instructional, titillating and indecent.  Prominent radio personalities like Howard Stern pushed the boundaries of how sex and sexuality could be used in entertainment programming, forever expanding the boundaries of acceptable content with gymnastic stretches of the double entendre.

Today, with satellite and Internet radio operating outside of the regulations of the public airwaves, sexual content can air without censorship on those platforms, economically-regulated by each program’s ability to attract an audience and sell exposure to that audience to advertisers.

SiriusXM has Vivid Radio online, a 24/7 channel of racy and explicit entertainment hosted by adult film stars.  Online, you can find The Casanova Show, Dr. Love on, Real Sex Talk on BlogTalkRadio among other sexually-charged programs and channels.

Advertisers include the usual suspects: male enhancement products, adult dating services and other “grown up” offers.  Most mainstream advertisers steer clear of these channels, where affiliation would certainly trigger fallout and pushback from the religious right.

So sex sells on radio, but in restricted air space.  There aren’t thousands or even hundreds of “adult” programs and channels.  There may not even be dozens.  I’m guessing that’s because too much sex is, well, too much sex.  Sure, sex is an important part of our lives but it’s not a 24/7 activity.  It has its time and its place.  And since most mainstream radio programming gives us an occasional tease, or suggestive joke or music with a spicy lyric, we Americans seem pretty satisfied with our radio sex in measured doses, rather than full frontal.  I think most would agree that a scantily-clad body inspires more arousal than a fully-naked figure that leaves nothing to the imagination.  And since radio is the theater of the mind, apparently we like our radio sexy, draped in a little something.