Sound Check

Has the Don Imus controversy permanently altered the radio universe? Clear Channel yakkers huddled to talk about it.

The Fox's Lewis echoes this observation. "Our agent called me last week just to say, 'Look what happened to Don Imus with that one comment. If that's where the bar is now, everybody has to be a little more careful. You just need to be smart about it.'"

The message at the April 19 meeting was similar, and Olinger believes all of her charges took it in the proper spirit. "I didn't get the sense that there was any kind of paranoia," she says. "They're really bright, talented professionals, and we're here to support them and help them any way we can. Could one of them get into trouble? That's always a possibility; it's always been a possibility. But we'll continue to do business as usual."

No doubt Imus wishes he could say the same. Raw deal: The March 22 Message included an item noting that Radio Colorado Network's Dino Costa had been suspended for two weeks from Raw Sports, his FSN Rocky Mountain program, for publicly dissing Denver Nugget Carmelo Anthony's decision not to guest on the show. Now, poor Melo has lost the opportunity to reconsider. On April 18, Costa resigned from FSN, and while he was unwilling to discuss the earlier incident (as was FSN spokeswoman Amy Turner, who also declined comment this time), he was more than happy to hash over his exit.

In a Raw Sports episode taped after the suspension, Costa riffed about the woman who said she'd been raped by several since-exonerated members of the Duke lacrosse team; he referred to her as a "lying stripper" and "whore." FSN types weren't thrilled by his choice of words, he says, and that frustrated him, since he'd been wanting to bring more of the no-holds-barred tone of his radio show to TV. Likewise, his bosses rejected his request to dump co-host Oren Lomena so he could go solo. And they also deep-sixed his plan to argue in another commentary segment that South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier was wrong for saying the Confederate flag should no longer fly on state capitol grounds. A few days after this last incident, he quit.

Costa has kind words for producer Benjie Kaze, who handpicked him for Raw Sports. In contrast, he rails against broadcasting timidness that he associates with Don Imus fallout. "The way the industry is moving makes me seriously contemplate my future," he says. "I think it's to our detriment that unique voices are being passed over in favor of the safe and sound. Programmers may be able to sleep at night, but what are we giving audiences? A bunch of vanilla, homogenized programming delivered by robots. If things keep going this way, every face and voice will be the same."

And Costa will figuratively join Imus on the unemployment line.

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