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Howard Stern Plots Against ‘American Idol'
April 2, 2007

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

Fox's "American Idol" is in Howard Stern's crosshairs.

The show with the most dominant ratings in broadcast television history is in danger of being "ruined," according to the satellite shock jock.

The toilet-tongued Stern has been working with the Web site and using his radio platform to try to persuade his listening audience to follow the dictates of the site, which advocates that "Idol" viewers vote for the poorest performer on the show.

The designated contestant of the current season is an atonal, arrhythmic, androgynous singer named Sanjaya Malakar. Malakar has inspired tears, endless Internet chatter, late-night comedy ribbing and a direct threat from curmudgeonly judge Simon Cowell.

Cowell has signaled his intentions to quit "Idol" if Malakar wins. "I won't be back if he does," Cowell recently declared to "Extra."

Stern is gleeful over the possibility of the show's demise. "We're corrupting the entire thing. All of us are routing ‘American Idol,'" the Sirius bigwig boasted during a recent show. "It's so great. The No. 1 show in television and it's getting ruined."

Stern routinely uses Malakar as fodder to debate Eric Lynch, a habitual caller. Lynch is firmly against the idea of harming the integrity of "Idol." In jousting with Lynch, Stern launches verbal missiles at the show while he promotes the idea of Malakar becoming the next "American Idol."

Fans of Stern have demonstrated cult-like tendencies in the past, as listeners appear to follow the dictates of their leader. He has even thrown his weight around in statewide elections in New York.

Malakar was in the bottom two or three of "Idol" contestants during the initial episodes of the show. But he was noticeably absent from the lower vote-getter categories in those telecasts that took place after Stern started to focus on his get-out-the-vote effort in March.

With over 30 million people tuning in each week, other networks are likely pleased with Stern's campaign and heartened by the fact that this year's "Idol" ratings are down 10 percent.

Since the actual vote tallies are not released to the public, exactly how many voters Stern has managed to corral is unknown. Malakar does have his own fan base and is also being covered extensively by Indian media.

Fox has issued a statement on the matter, expressing its skepticism of Stern's actual impact on the plurality of the vote.

"With 30 million votes every week, and hundreds of millions of votes over the season," the Fox statement reads, "the power of true fans of ‘American Idol' dwarfs any attempt of people trying to gain notoriety. Despite the press coverage, these campaigns don't affect who moves forward in the competition."

In private, though, Fox executives' fingers must be crossed that Malakar is booted sooner rather than later.

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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