A lot of people subscribed to Sirius to hear Howard Stern uncensored, but even on satellite radio, Stern is still subject to Sirius’ in-house content restrictions. So says a front-page report in today’s New York Post, which cites unnamed insiders as saying Sirius is imposing limits on the supposedly unfettered speech of Stern and other jocks. (Satellite competitor XM, home to shock jocks Opie and Anthony, reportedly has similar restrictions.)
But, but… Stern told everyone he was leaving terrestrial radio for satellite so that he could be free of FCC restrictions. The Post report, however, suggests that Sirius and XM have censorship guidelines in place in case Congress makes good on its threat to grant the FCC oversight of private pay broadcasts as well as the public airwaves.
It’s one thing for Stern to censor his own show (pledging to limit uses of the f-word, for example, because nonstop profanity would get tired pretty quickly). It’s another if the restrictions are imposed by the company, especially in fear of legislation that doesn’t exist yet. Still, satellite subscribers may not notice that distinction. After all, it was Stern himself who sold many of them on the promise of unfettered speech; if he knew that that wasn’t really something he could offer, the bait-and-switch will alienate even the hardcore loyalists who paid to follow him into uncharted territory.