By JEFF CRAIG --
There may be an Alberta Advantage.
But not to Howard Stern.
The hugely successful New York radio host made his Canadian debut on CHOM-FM in Montreal and Q-107-FM in Toronto this week and already has some special interest groups angling to have him yanked off the air.
But there are no plans for stations in Edmonton or Calgary to sign up the most popular - and most fined - man in radio history.
Doug Rutherford, the vice-president of programming for the WIC radio network, which owns Q-107, Power 92 in Edmonton and Rock 107 in Calgary, said yesterday that "we really don't have any intention of bringing Stern into Alberta. His appeal is more for classic rock stations (such as Q-107 and Power 92 competitors the Bear and K-Rock), so I think we'll stay the course here."
Edmonton-based Rutherford, who negotiated the Stern deal for Q-107, said the shock jock's fee (rumored to be between $300,000 and $500,000 US per station) is "a bit pricey for a lot of markets."
Before he hit on American radio, Stern considered coming to Canada to helm the morning show at Toronto's CHUM-FM station.
"They offered me a job in 1981," Stern said last March after inviting The Edmonton Sun to sit in on his morning show at the CBS radio building in New York. "I know I've got a lot of fans in Canada."
Prime Minister Jean Chretien isn't among them, however, joking yesterday that he didn't know who Stern was when questioned by reporters.
From making jokes about masturbating to a picture of Aunt Jemima (fine: $1 million US), Stern has gone on to build his career on insulting all races and cultures and making fun of political correctness.
This week he's made jokes about Princess Diana's death ("What do you do when people want to take your picture? You have a drunk drive you through a tunnel at 120 miles an hour!") and Tom Cruise's angry Saturday-night call to CNN about paparazzi ("Does this guy have a penis? He cried like a woman on CNN. It sounded like Mrs. Tom Cruise").
For his Montreal debut, Stern lashed out at French people everywhere over France's fall to the Nazis in the Second World War ("Bend over, like you did for Hitler," he instructed his francophone audience) and belittled French language, which he called "archaic" and "about as relevant as Yiddish ... the world speaks English and Spanish."
Edmonton's K-Rock station programmer Kevin Grexton says Stern's popularity (roughly 30 million fans on radio and a best-of cable TV show daily) is proof of his talent, and he agrees the jock would be a huge success in Edmonton.
"I think that he's a real good short-term fix for ratings," Grexton says.
Stern himself agrees, telling reporters in Montreal Tuesday that "Most stations we go on are usually in the toilet. No successful station in its right mind would put us on. We are the nuclear bomb that you drop when all else fails."
The Bear's Marty Forbes - who runs the city's highest-rated rock station - doesn't care what Stern might do to increase his audience.
"The short answer is no," Forbes says.
"It's a broader picture than just Howard Stern. It's about Canadian broadcasting and community. We have a commitment to community and I believe you have a responsibility to the city you broadcast in and earn revenue from."
Forbes admires Stern's talent, he says, but "we're knocking Canadian jobs out by bringing in American hosts. I want our people to know and respect what goes on in the city of Edmonton."