Howard Stern farewell rally draws thousands in NY
By Christian Wiessner
Fri Dec 16, 2:32 PM ET
REUTERS


NEW YORK (Reuters) - Thousands of people rallied on Friday to applaud "shock jock" Howard Stern, who after years of raging against government regulations on obscenity, broadcast his last show on public airwaves before heading to unregulated satellite radio.

"We broke every rule known to radio and mankind and I'm proud of that," Stern bellowed to supporters from an outdoor stage erected in a closed-off midtown Manhattan street.

"And I don't think this ride is over yet. Let the freedom bell be rung, and let it be rung by a stripper!

"We beat then at their own game, we figured out how to do it," he said. "Change the rules, break the chains, the last of a dying breed."

Stern rocked the broadcasting world in October 2004 when he signed a five-year contract with Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. reportedly valued at $500 million.

Stern has two entire channels with Sirius, which is not regulated by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and charges subscribers $13 a month for more than 100 channels.

The 51-year-old New Yorker, who starts broadcasting on Sirius on January 9, has complained for years that fear of censorship and more fines imposed by the FCC for his crude humor had sapped his creativity. A fine of nearly $500,000 levied in April 2004 on the broadcaster carrying his show brought Stern's career-fine total to $2.5 million.

FREEDOM OF OFF-COLOR SPEECH

Fans at the rally roared with approval at any mention of defeating the forces they see impinging on Stern's right to discuss scatological and sexually-oriented topics.

Alice Rubio of Phoenix and her son were visiting New York for the first time and said they came especially for the rally. She sported a valid Arizona license plate around her neck with "HWRD 100," a reference to one of Stern's Sirius channels.

"Even I turn him down when he gets to me, but the FCC doesn't have any right to censor him. If you don't like him, turn him off," she said.

New Yorker Alison Glazer, standing next to an 8-foot (2.4-meter) inflatable penis, said, "Howard's a legend and he did things no one else had, and he keeps on breaking through."

Kelly Langion from Babylon, New York, showed her appreciation for Stern by writing "Howard's Finally Sirius" across her bare breasts, which she displayed to the crowd.

From the stage, Stern mentioned the clenched-fist logo of his new channels and pulled no punches.

"I wanna ram that fist right up (radio station owner) Clear Channel Broadcasting, I wanna ram that fist up the religious right. ... For all those radio stations that fired me: F-em! You fired me? We fired YOU!" Stern crowed.

SATELLITE'S GREAT LAUNCH?

Syracuse University Professor of Television and Popular Culture Robert Thompson said Stern's enormous popularity could be what takes satellite radio into the mainstream.

"Every medium has needed one great show to kind of push it over the edge. Milton Berle was called 'Mr. Television' because he got people to go out and spend money and move the radio out of the place of honor in the living room," Thompson said.

"There is a pretty big audience who would not only follow him to satellite, they'd following him to Neptune. I think that's what Sirius is counting on," he added.