Infinity made a powerful statement about standing behind its franchise personality Wednesday morning. And Howard Stern made an important recommitment to terrestrial radio, denying predictions that he will abandon it for the less restrictive waters of satellite radio.
Not only is Infinity picking up The Howard Stern Show in five of the six markets where Clear Channel dropped him, it’s also giving Stern four additional markets (see separate stories). Some of them involve format changes.
The announcement came via an old-fashioned on-air press conference like Stern used to routinely do years ago. He said he was "devastated" when Clear Channel "abandoned" him and "threw him under the bus." It had a chilling effect on broadcasters, he added, before saluting the higher-ups at Infinity and Viacom who, even with Mel Karmazin out of the corner office, continue to stand behind him.
"In the face of all of this FCC crap, in the face of being thrown off stations, in the face of being threatened that I'm supposedly not allowed back on in other markets, I am going back on, and I am adding nine new stations," Stern said.
Stern also used the occasion to send a message to the FCC. "This will teach the FCC a lesson that we don't give up," he said. "We are going to fight back. I am not going to satellite."
Like he used to back in the day, Stern also attacked his new competitors. "Clear Channel has to be crapping their pants. They don't want me back on in these markets because I will quickly rise to No. 1 in every one of these markets," he pledged. "The day that I start in Pittsburgh, I'll be No, 1 again. I'm not taking it sitting down. I’m going to kick their asses in Pittsburgh, San Diego, West Palm Beach, Rochester and Orlando.
"The press has been predicting that I’m finished, that the only place left for me is satellite radio and clearly it is not," he continued. "Will the censorship continue? Yes. Will we continue to be having these battles with the FCC? Yes. Will these other companies attempt to keep me off the air? Yes."
Vowing to hang in there until "George W. Bush is out of office," Stern predicted that, "John Kerry will receive more votes as a result of this," and admitted that by adding new affiliates he’s making "something of a statement to the FCC."
The new outlets increase his affiliate listing to 45 total, of which 27 are owned by Infinity. Stern is rated No. 1 in men 25-54 in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, and other markets.
"Howard has dominated the radio landscape for more than 20 years," said Infinity CEO Joel Hollander. "The millions of listeners who tune into The Howard Stern Show on a daily basis is unmatched in the industry. He delivers one of the most loyal audiences in radio who will no doubt embrace his return."