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Stern Makes Sirius Plea

Howard Stern pitched his new Sirius Satellite Radio gig on The Late Show with David Letterman Thursday night, warning viewers that Congress was about to pass a law targeting performers and repeating the charge that Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell was singling him out.

Stern told Letterman that Powell had said the Oprah show could not be fined for talking about oral sex and Stern could because Oprah is a beloved figure and Stern isn't.

Stern has made the statement before, and Powell has denied it, pointing out that the FCC is currently investigating a complaint against the Oprah episode in question.

As for cracking down on performers, a bill to do that was introduced in the congressional session just wrapping up, but it was dropped from a defense authorization bill and won't resurface until next year.

Stern spent several minutes knocking Powell for the indecency crackdown and Clear Channel for yanking his show--because he criticized President Bush, he says. Clear Channel flatly denies the charge, saying that the reason was to protect its stations from indecency fines and its licenses from potential challenges over Stern's show.But Stern was there primarily to encourage his audience to move to satellite radio.

Saying Sirius has about 700,000 listeners vs. his current 16 million, Stern said he was taking a big gamble by making the move--scheduled for the end of next year. He suggested that a Sirius radio would make a great Christmas gift.

In fact, earlier in the day, Stern drew a crowd of around 2,000 fans for a giveaway of Sirius Satellite radios in Manhattan. Stern's deal to jump to the satellite radio programmer doesn't kick in until 2006, but he keeps hinting that he wants out immediately. It's possible, but it would coast Sirius tens of millions of dollars.

As for Powell singling Stern out. Of the 26 notices of apparent liability the FCC has issued on Powell's watch, two have been against Stern, according to the FCC, though one was a half-million dollar hit.