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Thursday, October 14, 2004

They Came From Outer Space

Howard Stern on satellite radio! We can't come up with anything scarier this Halloween than the prospect of getting shock-jocked from orbit. Well, almost nothing; we couldn't find a picture of the FCC.

Like him or not, Stern's outspoken style and single-minded defiance of censorship in all its forms is once again changing the landscape in a way that will challenge and at the same time benefit all of us.

In 1979 the DJ quit his job at WCCC over a $25 a week raise and hasn't looked back since. Picking fights with every management he ever DJd for Stern has quit his way to the top of the profession. His most recent falling out with giant Infinity nets him a $500 Million contract with Sirius Satellite over a 5 year period.

The Howard Stern juggernaut with its estimated 12 million listeners was hired to literally boost the first serious challenge to regulated, ground based radio and the FCC; the stodgy quasi-Federal governing board which has "regulated" the public airwaves until it's nothing more than an oligopoly, a windfall for a handful of giants like Clear Channel. Along the way they have managed to creep censorship into the mix to such an extent that radio today is more about advertising and playing the oldies than news, comment and free speech.

Stern's admix of trash talk, sex and heavenly bodies will cost Sirius Satellite radio listeners serious bucks, as much as $12.95 a month for the package; but at least for that they'll be able slip the surly bonds of the FCC and 22 minutes of advertising every hour.

Satellite radio is not the only change on the horizon however, "Podcasting" figures to be an even greater revolution than orbiting radio with thousands of independent and unregulated RSS feed webcasters expected to bid for play time on an iPod near you. Imagine having your own webradio station and broadcasting from your desk top to 12 of your best friends and audience, I could drown in my soup radio, a Stan Freberg moment if we ever heard one, this could get exciting.