Looks like the FCC won't have Howard Stern to kick around anymore. In what both parties are modestly calling ''the most important deal in radio history,'' Stern and satellite radio service Sirius have announced a five-year pact that will bring Stern's show to satellite listeners everywhere and free the shock jock to speak uncensored for a subscription-only audience. According to a joint statement, Sirius will spend $500 million over the next five years on the Stern show, including salaries for Stern and his posse and the cost of a new studio to be built for the self-styled King of All Media.
Sirius execs suggest that landing Stern will not only make him the king of a new medium but will help put that medium on the map. ''Signing Howard Stern is, without a doubt, the most exciting and transformational event in the history of radio,'' Sirius CEO Joseph P. Clayton said in the statement. ''He is an entertainment force of unprecedented recognition and popularity in the broadcast world, who is capable of changing the face of satellite radio and generating huge numbers of subscribers for Sirius.'' The statement claims that it would take just 1 million new subscribers to cover the cost of the Stern deal.
It's not yet clear what the Sirius contract means for the future of Stern's existing show, syndicated by Infinity over conventional radio in a couple dozen cities. Stern's career-long grumbling over federally mandated content restrictions -- and the FCC indecency fines that his show has sometimes cost broadcasters -- came to a boil this year after Janet Jackson's Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction led to an FCC crackdown on indecency and a new round of scrutiny and fines resulting from the Stern show. Stern has been saying for months that he'd like to decamp for satellite radio and take his rabid fan base with him. His Sirius show will begin on Jan. 1, 2006. ''It has been my dream to have the top-rated show in radio since I was five years old,'' Stern said in the statement. ''Sirius -- the future of radio -- will take this dream to a whole new level as I bring my fans my show my way. It will be the best radio they will ever hear.''