Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Fight The Power

Yesterday I was making my way west on 57th Street when I saw a box truck of medium size that had been covered in black aside from a small cartoon fist in white and the words "Moving? So is Howard." The ad copy below touted Howard Stern's move to Sirius Satellite Radio and advertised Moshe's Moving Services.

At the time, I acknowledged that it had been a decade or longer that I'd thought of myself as a Howard Stern listener. When I was in high school, I listened to Howard Stern during my morning commute, but since then, I found I could survive -- and perhaps thrive -- without listening to he and his morning entourage playing Lesbian Dial-A-Date, going off on some troll-esque caller, his bitching and/or ranting, and his generally pedantic, whiny shtick. I bristled a bit when Stern publicized his fight against the FCC and thereafter signed on with Sirius. I can understand his use of the First Amendment to protect speech and opinion; but his interest in interviewing porn stars at 7:30 each weekday morning, to me, ran outside the bounds of good taste and failed my personal test, which is, essentially, would I want my kids listening to him each morning before they reached 13?

This morning, CNN is reporting that Mr. Stern is being sued by CBS for fraud, contending that at some point after he'd signed with Sirius to while he was still on air and employed by Infinity/CBS, (CBS owns Infinity, and Stern left CBS/Infinity at the end of calendar year 2005) he began promoting Sirius. This, CBS contends in their suit, is fraud.

The whole Howard Stern-to-Sirius move did very little to blow my skirt up, so to speak, but this, I assume, will be somewhat interesting. Given Mr. Stern's apparent complete lack of discretion and his prediliction to saying what is on his mind -- even if it doesn't involve T&A or lesbians -- ought to make for some real entertainment. Essentially, he discussed the entire situation in his view with the press, and suggested CBS chief Les Moonves had a personal vendetta against him, as well as an interest in publicly going after Stern in order to deflect attention away from the fact that his successor, former Van Halen front-man David Lee Roth, was tanking in the ratings department (who didn't see that one coming?). To be sure, this suit will be settled out of court, but the one thing I found interesting was that Stern asked the same question I did when CBS contended his on-air behavior in December, 2005, hurt CBS: "If his behavior was so damaging to CBS after he began publicizing his move to Sirius radio, why was he allowed to continue doing so on the air?" According to Stern, "Les said, 'I knew I could sue you later,' Stern said."

The suit seeks $500 million, which, coincidentally, is the amount of the five-year deal Stern signed with Sirius. Again, as I indicated above, I am certain this will get settled -- quietly and out of the spotlight -- but the whole thing reeks of stupidity. The best part of the entire conflict, of course, is that while CBS in theory hopes to recoup monies to which they say they are entitled, their attack on Stern will perpetuate his "Us Against Them" campaign which originated with his massive FCC fines, and which propelled him to satellite radio in the first place. In other words, it's pretty clear that Stern will once again profit from a bunch of stuffed shirts going after him, and while I have no interest in him or his blunt sense of humor, I do -- after learning about this suit -- have a different respect for him, and I genuinely hope that he sticks it to CBS once more before he is finally done with them once and for all. It might not be about free speech, and it might not be about right and wrong; but, as it always seems to be, it appears that it is all about money, and I hope he manages to squash CBS and leave them behind in his wake, as he seems to be poised to do.

So to answer the mobile billboard from yesterday, I'm not moving just yet...but from this day forward, I am in the fight, if only as a spectator.

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