Earlier this morning, radio personality Howard Stern announced that he's moving to the satellite broadcaster Sirius in 15 months, when his current contract with Infinity ends.
This may not be the "most important deal in radio history," but it's definitely a shot in the arm of satellite radio–and related, non-regulated formats of content distribution (including cable TV). Fuck the FCC? You bet.
I've been listening to Stern since the mid-'80s, when he was the afternoon shock jock on WNBC in New York(if I'm remembering correctly, there was Imus in the morning [always a good reason to sleep in] and Alan Colmes was somewhere on the same slate [or maybe he replaced Stern after he got canned]). I've never been short on praise of the guy, either. Though I think he's been pretty flat for a long time now, I've always enjoyed the mirror he's held up to celebrity culture.
One real question emerges from this in terms of content: Stern is pushing the end-of-censorship angle of his future move. Finally, he says, he won't have to deal with the FCC and other puritans. But in fact a good deal of the oomph of his show is that it takes place in a tightly constrained context, where he flirts with crossing the line (this is also true of his TV show on the E! cable channel). On satellite, different rules–or lack of them–will apply. Will he be as interesting? Or, same thing, will audiences find him as interesting? I'm not sure.
I enjoyed his Rotten New Year's Eve pay-per-view special some years back, which featured material that would never seen the light of the broadcast day. Though the special was successful, it was surprising to me how many of his fans found that program over the top and generally unfunny. On satellite, he'll have horrible, horrible freedom to say and do whatever he wants. Which is very different from how he actually built his show over the years.