Watch out, astronauts and cosmonauts. Watch out, UFOs. Howard Stern's sleazy radio show is headed into outer space. Stern shook the radio world on Oct. 5 by declaring that he will move his long-standing cavalcade of coarseness to Sirius Satellite Radio for a cool $100 million a year in cash and stock, beginning in January 2006, when his current contract with Infinity Broadcasting expires.
Some used to worry about besmirching the pristine heavens with satellite weapons. Now the heavens will transmit the daily Stern feed, one classy stunt after another like the current contest to find "The World's Largest Hemorrhoid." One hopes there isn't extraterrestrial life out there -- one satellite interception and the aliens will surely decline contact with Planet Earth.
But it is also a serious victory for the defenders of decency on the public airwaves. The increased threat of punishment from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), including $495,000 in fines for Clear Channel stations airing Stern, has been a major headache for the Sheik of Shock.
Now Stern lovers will have to stumble over new barriers. Teenaged boys wishing to get their hormones racing in the morning with autoerotic audio will have to ask Mom to purchase a satellite radio system if they want to choose Stern. It generally costs about $200 to purchase the hardware, which must be installed in cars by professionals. Installation is usually about $75. The monthly fee for the programming is $12.95.
On the other hand, the liberated Stern will obviously not just push, but shred the envelope in his new forum. As Associated Press joked at the beginning of one news story, "Howard Stern has long had two words for the Federal Communications Commission -- and in 15 months, he can finally utter them on the air." Sadly, the reporters at CNET.com effectively reflected the business sector's reaction to the news: "Potty talk could be just what the fledgling satellite radio industry needs to become a viable, mainstream business." One media analyst insisted, "part of Stern's success at Viacom was testing the boundaries and railing against the FCC. His fans are going to expect even more shocking content on Sirius."
Despite the 15-month gap before Stern's switch, Sirius is already advertising on Stern's Website with a photo of a fat, old lady in a bathing cap. "Some things should be censored," it jokes. "Just not your radio," it says, as a picture of a shapely lady in a bikini flashes in.