Sirius Canada adds Howard Stern
TORONTO (CP) – The self-proclaimed King of All Media will be heard via satellite radio in Canada after all, starting Monday morning.
Sirius Canada has confirmed that controversial U.S. radio host Howard Stern will be included as part of the company’s 100-channel lineup. Stern debuted on Sirius in the U.S. on Jan. 9 but was not initially included in the Canadian lineup. Sirius Canada launched its subscription service in early December.
In Canada, Stern will be heard on Howard One, but a second channel the shock jock programs with other on-air personalities will not be available here.
Mark Redmond, Sirius Canada president and CEO, said Wednesday that Stern was clearly a powerful force in the entertainment world and that while “he’s not to everybody’s taste” it was time to add him to the lineup.
Declaring he was tired of censorship, Stern abandoned over-the-air radio to elude the scrutiny of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission which had come down hard on his brand of raunchy content.
Redmond plays down reports that because of the nearly one-month delay in launching Stern in Canada, his company may have lost thousands of potential subscribers to the grey market – consumers buying U.S.-made receivers and activating them with a fake U.S. address.
“I don’t know how big the grey market is,” he says. “I don’t think anybody really knows.
“At this point we’re more concerned with addressing future subscribers.”
Redmond also dismisses suggestions that Stern’s program will run afoul of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council or the CRTC, explaining that there are three levels of control. First, it’s a pay service; second, there are parental controls on the receivers that can be used to block channels; and third, the service can be purchased with or without Sirius Canada’s six channels of “mature” content, including Stern, with no change in price.
Ron Cohen, national chair of the broadcast standards council – the industry’s voluntary watchdog agency – says he’s not expecting to get many consumer complaints upon which to act.
Pay radio, like pay TV, will be held to more relaxed standards than over-the-air fare – but there will still be standards, says Cohen.
“Sirius is a member of the CBSC and if there are any complaints we will deal with those,” he says, stressing that Stern will not have carte blanche when it comes to abusive comment.
Sirius Canada is co-owned by the U.S. Sirius satellite company, the CBC and Standard Radio.
A Sirius Canada spokesman says there had been some temporary shortages of receivers in some stores but that they are now readily available.
Stern has already had a checkered history on Canadian radio. Rock stations in Toronto and Montreal imported his syndicated show in the 1990s in a ratings-boosting effort. Complaints from the broadcast standards council, however, led to Stern’s show being put on a tape delay with heavy censorship. Although he delivered on ratings initially, Stern was eventually dropped altogether by CHOM-FM in Montreal and Q-107 in Toronto.
Stern also levelled a few volleys at Canadian bureaucrats at the time.
“They’re French,” he once said. “And you know what happens when someone comes down on them. They run!”
Stephen Tapp, president of Sirius’s competitor XM Canada, says Stern is already a proven failure in Canada, having been pulled off both radio and TV.
“We wouldn’t want the future of our company resting on just one guy and one show, especially if he’s got a track record like he has in Canada,” says Tapp, who insists that’s not just sour grapes.
He recalls when Stern’s syndicated TV show aired on Citytv, the ratings started out OK, then died because people lost interest.
“If people didn’t want to listen to him or watch him before in Canada, we don’t think they’re going to want to pay for him.”
In the past, when asked why Sirius Canada didn’t opt to carry Stern from the beginning, Redmond said only that they would be assessing the demand in the marketplace. “In the normal course of our business we will be continually reviewing our channel lineup.”
Sirius Canada adds Howard Stern