Who would have thought that a wardrobe malfunction on prime time television could forever alter the course of radio? Janet Jackson’s bared breast at the halftime show during the 2004 Super Bowl — which a court is presently hearing — brought about the FCC’s zero tolerance policy, which, in turn, led to Howard Stern boldly going the censorship-free route of Sirius satellite radio.
Fast forward several years. The two satellite radio companies — Sirius and XM — are both hemorrhaging cash and decide to no longer fight but merge. Terrestrial radio, crushed by its own servile compliance to the FCC’s Victorian zero-tolerance policy (and, of course, new competition coming from iPods and satellite and internet radio), has become a barren wasteland of flavorless programming.
But what if the merger — facing incredible obstacles by the NAB, terrestrial radio’s last stand — fails?
”The two companies would certainly take longer to become profitable, if they were able to make it at all. Moreover, they may not be able to stand on their own, and could face an outright acquisition by a satellite television company such as DirecTV or a cable provider such as Comcast. There’s also been speculation that shock-jock Howard Stern could bolt Sirius if the merger doesn’t go through, since he would be stuck with a relatively small audience. But Karmazin bats away such questions. ‘Howard will never go back,’ he says, citing the freedom Stern enjoys without regulations from the Federal Communications Commission.”
But what if they offered Stern as many markets as Rush Limbaugh and a commensurate record-breaking salary? Never say never.