Contact theSOPAbout theSOPSupport theSOPWritersEditorsManaging Editors
theSOP logo
Published:January 2nd, 2008 11:42 EST
Shock jock Howard Stern steps into another realm--satellite radio

Shock jock Howard Stern steps into another realm--satellite radio


The next big thing has arrived "or has it?  In the golden age of radio, which was brief due to the advent of television, experts were predicting the end of newspapers.  When TV debuted, radio received its death sentence.  Round-the-clock cable news stations were supposedly killing network news, while the invention of the Internet was to destroy television newscasts.  None of these media outlets have completely been outdated.  But what of the new wave of technology: satellite radio?  Are there people out there who are willing to pay for something they can get for free?  Sirius Radio, one of the two major companies of satellite radio, is betting on it.  Highly publicizing "shock jock` Howard Stern`s move from terrestrial radio to satellite, their subscriptions have already more than doubled from 600,000 to over 3 million.  Is the ability to hear one crude man worth paying for, when there are countless imitators on the airwaves you can listen to now "without spending a dime?

Satellite radio offers a variety of programs with hundreds of channels to choose from.  Celebrities have been tapped to do promo spots and shows.  Bob Dylan, Martha Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres, Pamela Anderson and David Bowie are just a few of the celebrities who have satellite radio shows.  Obsessed fans of these famous people can tune in to listen to them for advice, music, or comedy.  The appeal to subscribe is there.  There`s no need to listen to mundane programs, playing the same songs, over and over, when by scanning the dial you can find your own kind of sound.  Because there are so many channels available, satellite radio is able to better serve the listener by narrowing their niche, instead of broad-basing for a larger target audience.  The signal is also stronger; if driving from state to state, it is possible to maintain the enjoyment of listening to your desired channel without the white noise of static.

Terrestrial radio offers locality.  The radio personalities have regional familiarity, so if a disc jockey were to talk about a little restaurant around the corner, or the neighborhood school, local listeners can associate with their comments.  Local flare, whether in regards to a small station in a tiny town or a major radio station covering the tri-state area is important.  Listeners enjoy hearing about things they know; events, culture, way of life.  Satellite radio cannot offer that.  Another advantage is that news can be heard immediately.  Traffic reports, weather updates, and breaking news can be on the air within seconds, whereas a nationally syndicated radio program it would be absent or delayed.

In the 1950s radio programs offered much variety, but in later years, corporations became involved, slowly shifting the medium of radio from a creative, fresh outlet to a business oriented, money-making machine.  Illegal and legal digital downloads have already made a sizable dent in record sales.  Companies have combated that somewhat with digital downloads of albums and re-releases of albums with special features and bonus tracks.  Radio has faded into background noise; they are corporate run, offering the same playlists, and very few radio personalities can keep an audience, and advertisers interested.  Many long-time stations have had to switch formats to try and regain listeners.  Jobs in radio are tough to come by as well, as one person can be hired to be producer, announcer and engineer at a low wage, done only for the love of radio.

Howard Stern, as deplorable as he may be to some, has become a pioneer.  A scrappy Long Island kid who grew up wanting to be on the radio has now set standards (certainly not of the moral kind) extremely high.  Stern`s radio persona can be compared to a cockroach; impossible to get rid of.  In his 20 years on New York radio, he has been in much legal trouble, evoking the First Amendment as a shield against censorship, religious leaders, the FCC, and critics.  Instead of being fired, Infinity Broadcasting settled with the FCC in 1995 for $1.7 million.   In 2004, Clear Channel dropped him from six of their stations.  Yet, he was No. 1 in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and Los Angeles.  His syndicated shows garnered 12 million daily listeners.  His new job at Sirius is a five-year deal for $500 million, where he`ll create two channels for satellite.  As he ended his terrestrial radio days by playing the funeral march, Taps, " one has to wonder if this is the end of radio as we know it?  Will there be another disc jockey who will ever see Stern money?

How many of Stern`s fans will follow?  Will he be a "shocked` jock to find that many fans aren`t willing to shell out $12.95 a month to hear his free speech?  Or will he once again break records?  Howard Stern`s new show debuts January 9, 2006 on Sirius Radio.