Stern back on Canadian airwaves

JIM SLOTEK - Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:51 AM ET

TORONTO - Lock up your strippers and tell the guardians of decency the news -- shock jock Howard Stern is returning to Canada with Robin Quivers, Artie Lange et al.

Following weeks of rumours that Sirius Canada was reconsidering its no-Stern policy, the company announced yesterday it will begin carrying the all-Stern Howard 100 channel starting next Monday -- one of two Stern channels that originate on Sirius in the U.S.

Ironically, Howard is taking a spot earmarked for Cosmo, a women's channel that's due to debut at the end of the month.

"It's good news," Sirius Canada president Mark Redmond said of the acquisition. "I'm happy if we have happy subscribers. I don't care what they listen to."

Sources in the company had said Sirius Canada was avoiding Stern because of concerns of flak from the CRTC. Others speculated the stumbling block was Stern's high price tag (the U.S. service is paying him a staggering $100 million a year).

Redmond denied the cost was a factor, but said there was a delay while Sirius Canada shored up "the necessary controls to allow somebody to block it out if they didn't want to listen to it."

In fact, Sirius subscribers can phone up and have Stern blocked at source.

Redmond said they only took one of the two Stern channels because "we have 100 channels in total, but only 99 up and active." The 100th spot was for the Cosmopolitan magazine channel. Redmond said a current channel could "potentially" be bumped when Cosmo comes on.

What this means for Stern fans is that they'll get his morning radio show, the Wrap-up Show and Howard 100 News, but not Channel 101 Stern spinoff programming like Bubba The Love Sponge and Heidi Cortez Tissue Talk.

In lieu of Stern, thousands of fans have been buying "grey boxes," U.S. Sirius radios, registered with an often-made-up U.S. address and billed to Visa. Industry observers have suggested the company couldn't afford not to have Stern.

The New York-based Stern debuted in Canada on Sept. 2, 1997 on Toronto's Q-107 and Montreal's CHOM-FM, and started things off by blasting the French (calling them "peckerheads" and saying, "the French should bend over for me the way they did for Hitler"). That first broadcast alone inspired more than 1,000 complaints to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

Stern lasted on CHOM until August 1998. Q-107 took flak from the regulators and stuck with the experiment through November 2001.

Not everybody was singing Welcome Back Howard yesterday. Stephen Tapp, president of rival satellite radio service XM Canada (which carries Stern's shock jock competitors Opie & Anthony) called Stern "a proven failure in Canada -- pulled off TV and radio not because of censorship but because of performance."

He added, "I wouldn't want to have the future of my company to rest on the shoulders of one guy."

And media watch-dog and anti-violence crusader Valerie Smith said in a recent release vis rumours of Stern's return: "It's unfortunate that there is a market for Stern's misogyny and abusive comments directed at other vulnerable groups. (But) the CRTC imposed licence conditions to prevent him from being carried on the new satellite services ... They need to act quickly to punish Sirius Canada should the company be dumb enough and irresponsible enough to put him on their schedule."

For his part, Redmond said, "we believe that the levels of control and access we've put in place are sufficient to alleviate any of these concerns."

Howard Stern - 'King of All Media'

* Born Howard Allan Stern on Jan. 12, 1954 in Jackson Heights, New York

* Stern graduated from Boston University's College of Communications in 1973. Supposedly, young Howard was at the top of his class.

* In 1993, Stern published his life story in Private Parts. The autobiography was the fastest selling book for Simon & Schuster of all time.

* Stern played himself in a feature-film version of Private Parts in 1998. The movie grossed more than $60 million.

* Stern married his college sweetheart, Alison, in 1978. They have three daughters together.

* Alison had enough of Howard's act and the couple separated in 1999. She remarried in 2001.

* Stern started dating model Beth Ostrosky, 19 years his junior, in 2000.


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