Hold Up of Stern Going to Satellite Is Contract

Rhett Pardon
LAS VEGAS - When the National Association of Broadcasters meets in Las Vegas Sunday, much talk will be raised about when, not if, Howard Stern moves over to satellite radio.

Stern, whose Clear Channel broadcasts drew record fines and threats of yanking licenses from the Federal Communications Commission this month, has been talking on the air about a move to satellite radio.

And it’s a likely fit.

There, Stern can bring on the raunch to the radio equivalent of cable TV, where content can be as racy as it wants. Satellite radio is unregulated because it is only available to paid subscribers.

The only holdup to talks between the satellite stations may be the contract Stern has with Infinity Broadcasting, which airs the show on 35 stations and has an estimated 15 million listeners.

Infinity has repeatedly said it would stand by him, even as it fights indecency.

With 2 million subscribers between them, XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio, a Stern move would help build numbers, and he can say whatever he wants.

XM and Sirius both already have adult fare.

XM includes the "Raw" hip-hop show and the Playboy radio station, which airs the "Playboy Advisor" and a show "Night Calls" with hostesses Juli and Tiffany.

Sirius, which features Pamela Anderson in a wet tank top in an advertising campaign, has a show called "Raw Dog Comedy," which it claims is "uncensored, unregulated and undeniably funny."

With the possible defection, radio broadcasters may be worried about the competition.

"I don't know if we'd call them a serious threat at this point." Dennis Wharton, spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, said. “But it’s competition.”

XM, which has 1.7 million subscribers who pay $9.95 a month for the basic package, said it is happy to talk to Stern.

"In the radio business, there are few celebrities and talents that have lasted 20 years, and he's one of them," Panero said during a satellite industry panel discussion.