Howard Stern Broadcast Sabotaged!
December 14, 2005
Originally Published June 17, 1994

It was a familiar chain of events for the fans of the Howard Stern show. Sternís feed is picked up in a market. In time, his show dethrones the ruling morning station. Stern and company travel to the market and "bury" the former competitor in a mock funeral. Itís happened in Philadelphia. Itís happened in L.A. But when it came time to celebrate the victory in Cleveland on Friday, June 10, with the usual press conference, parade and the like, something went wrong. That something was apparently embodied in the person of WMMS, Cleveland engineer William Alfred, who allegedly cut a cable feeding the program via satellite to all of Sternís affiliates.

Alfred was arrested on the day of the broadcast and charged, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, with breaking and entering, disruption of a public service and possession of criminal tools. He was supposedly found with the wire snippers still on his person. Disruption of a broadcast is a federal offense punishable by 10 years in prison. Although not the exact target of Sternís "ire" in the funeral, WMMS is the sister station of WMJI, whoíd held the number one slot in mornings until the most recent book. Should a trail lead to WMMS management, the status of their broadcast license would be gravely in danger.

Although WMMS is known for its cutting edge marketing and had even issued a "Rest In Hell" sticker in "honor" of the Stern visit, Executive VP/GM Dean Thacker was resolute in his claims that the station had nothing whatsoever to do with Alfredís actions. In a statement issued by the station, Thacker explained: WMMS did not and does not authorize, encourage or condone the interruption of another radio stationís broadcast. WMMS will not tolerate any such conduct from any of its employees. The individual allegedly involved in the incident in question has been suspended pending further investigation of the allegations against him. It may be possible that the reported action was nothing more than a publicity stunt engineered by our competition. Among other coincidences and facts, the individual in question reportedly received restricted area access to the Stern show from current WNCX (and former WMMS) employees. Based upon our investigation thus far, we are confident that people will come to a different understanding of these events when the truth is made public.

WMMS believes in healthy and tough competition, but it does not condone the breaking of any laws. Any employee who participates in the violation of any laws to the detriment of the station or its image will be disciplined to the extend necessary, up to and including discharge."

Irregardless of whether you subscribe to the single bullet theory or believe there was a conspiracy, WMMSí actions were markedly different from other stations that Howard has publicly "buried." The station arranged for both a Buzzard banner-toting helicopter and an airplane to fly overhead during the rally. The plane pulled a banner that read: "Buzzards feast on dead meat, Howard." And according to íMMS OM John Gorman, a mock tombstone that was supposed to carry the inscription "Here lies the Buzzard and Lanigan" arrived at the funeral carrying a slightly different message: "Here lies Howard Stern. Rot In Hell." WNCX PD Doug Podell says that tombstone never made it to the rally and arrived at íNCX on the following Tuesday.

In a release from WNCX, the station explained the two inspectors from the FCC Field Office in Detroit were investigating the matter, talking with WNCX Chief Engineer Sam Cappas, his associate Cornelius Gould and íNCX VP/GM Walt Tiburski, who stated, "The Commission takes any interruption of a federally-authorized licenseeís broadcast very seriously. Just look at how fast they are reacting to the events last week."

Tiburski has gone on to call Thackerís allegations of the cut lines being a publicity stunt "laughable and ignorant," and denies Alfred had a valid pass at the time of his arrest.

The cutting of the cables was apparently not the first incident to disrupt festivities on Friday. Earlier in the day, when Stern was using a Marti unit, the frequency was jammed, with Sternís words replaced by a series of obscenities. No further information on who may have jammed the frequency has come to light. Due to the use of a delay loop, the obscenities were not broadcast.

FCC Acting Engineer in charge of the Detroit Field Office, Paul Mako, explained that his investigation is currently limited to who jammed the Marti broadcast, letting the local authorities look into who cut the satellite feed. Make did bring up an interesting point of view regarding the latter issue. When asked if Alfred was found guilty of cutting the satellite lines if that would mean he was charged with interrupting a federally-authorized broadcast, Mako said that was a gray area. If found guilty, Alfred would have interrupted the audio feed and not the broadcast signal itself. That might be the realm where the lawyers will be playing in this case.


** QB Content originally printed in June 17, 1994 issue of FMQB **

 
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