Satellite Radio and Howard Stern Essay

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Satellite Radio: Will Howard Stern's move make us change the way we think about radio?

Howard Stern's plan to move to satellite radio in January 2006 marks a major turning point for the radio industry. Not only has Stern brought the  possibility of subscribing to satellite radio into the minds of the millions in his audience, he has also gotten more people to start thinking and talking about what really distinguishes satellite radio from traditional radio.

Satellite radio was first authorized by the Federal Communication
Commission (FCC) in 1997, seven years after initial applications. The delay in approval was in part the result of protests by the National
Association of Broadcasters which charged that the service threatened
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By switching to satellite radio, Stern declared the ability to 
"bring my fans my show my way."[4]

Traditional radio retains several advantages that are unavailable to satellite radio. Traditional radio was granted free use of the airwaves in 
1927 by the federal government and has the right to play music without paying royalties to performers. In exchange, the FCC has the right to restrict the content of the radio broadcasts. Despite these content regulations that seem to be a flagrant violation of the First Amendment right to free speech, these restrictions are permitted and have steadily expanded throughout the twentieth century. Alternatively, satellite radio companies paid almost $200 million for their airwaves and pay more royalties for music, but there are no content limitations.[5]

Two significant questions are introduced by Stern's move to satellite radio. Will the FCC attempt to regulate satellite radio as its audience grows? And if not, will the single advantage of free content be enough to move satellite radio to the forefront of the radio industry?

Under its current regulatory status, satellite radio will remain free of content restrictions due to its subscriber-only structure. This regulatory  status can be compared to that of HBO, or even the Playboy Channel, on cable television.
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