Source : Ottawa Citizen
The shock jock who declared French Canadians to be "cowards" and "pussies"
may be returning to Canada -- courtesy, at least in part, of the staid CBC.
Yesterday in New York, satellite radio provider SIRIUS Satellite Radio
announced it has signed a five-year $500-million deal with Howard Stern, the
self-proclaimed "king of all media." Mr. Stern will move to satellite radio
effective in January 2006.
Satellite radio, which offers crystal-clear radio to subscribers -- much of
it commercial-free -- has yet to come to Canada. SIRIUS Radio Canada, a joint
venture with the CBC and Standard Radio as majority shareholders, is bringing an application to the CRTC on Nov. 1 seeking a licence to carry SIRIUS radio and all its services in Canada.
That would include Mr. Stern, whose program is known for his sexually
"The CBC can decide in their wisdom that there are some channels they don't
want to carry," said Kevin Shea, president of SIRIUS Radio Canada. "Our
intention right now is to bring the full lineup. Time and discussion will
determine what happens."
Mr. Stern has become a liability on the public airwaves. In April, U.S.
federal regulators proposed $495,000 U.S. in indecency fines against Clear
Channel Communications for broadcasts by Mr. Stern. However, Mr. Stern has the top-rated show among 18- to 49-year-old men, a demographic that is also the satellite radio's target audience.
Mr. Stern's Montreal debut in 1997 sparked dozens of complaints to the CRTC.
He lost his last foothold in Canada in 2001 when Corus Entertainment Inc.
dropped his program from Toronto's Q107. The Canadian Broadcast Standards
Council had censured Q107 on two occasions because of the content on Mr. Stern's show.
SIRIUS Radio Canada argues that pay radio is not broadcast on the public
airwaves and consumers can decide if they want a channel or not.
"The consumer decides if they will buy it or not. If the CRTC says 'block
Howard Stern,' that can be done," said Mr. Shea. "It's completely addressable. We will control what channels are receivable by Canadians."
Yesterday, a spokesman for CBC Radio said programming decisions will be based
on what's appropriate for the Canadian market, said Jason MacDonald.
"We'll wait to see what the show's format will be before we make an decision
or comment any further."
Mr. Shea points out that unique shows like Mr. Stern's are what make
satellite radio appealing to audiophiles. "It may be that the content is -- in some quarters -- questionable," he said. "But the consumer elects to buy it."
The proposed monthly cost of subscribing to satellite radio is $12.95 a
month. A satellite radio radio receiver starts at about $70, and some car
manufacturers, ranging from BMW to Ford, already offer them on selected models.
SIRIUS provided the CRTC with its channel lineup about four months ago, said
Mr. Shea. As it stands, there are already 120 channels available on SIRIUS and the CBC is creating two new stations that will carry mostly music. Standard Broadcasting is to produce another channel.
SIRIUS' competitor XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., which has also applied
to the CRTC for a Canadian licence, has its own shock jocks. On Monday, XM
started offering radio personalities Opie and Anthony to U.S. subscribers. The duo were yanked off the air in New York after they broadcast two listeners having sex inside St. Patrick's Cathedral.
In a statement released yesterday in New York, SIRIUS called signing Mr.
Stern "the most exciting and transformational event in the history of radio."
"It has been my dream to have the top-rated show in radio since I was five
years old," Mr. Stern said in a 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."
Kevin Ribble, a broadcast professor at the British Columbia Institute of
Technology, said radio has become conservative in the past decade. Mr. Stern is not currently available in any market in Canada and receiving his show will be attractive to some listeners.
"Howard Stern can do whatever he wants. It's like a private network."
However, he concedes that it's an "odd situation" for a public broadcaster
like the CBC to own a piece of a satellite radio network that promotes such a
controversial radio personality.
However, CBC Radio and SIRIUS Radio have two different mandates, he points
"This is not public domain," he said. "I think they'll argue that it has
nothing to do with their public mandate."
© The Ottawa Citizen