TO LISTEN TO HOWARD STERN’S new radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio, you need a satellite radio receiver and a paid subscription to the service–or do you? The show is being rebroadcast (albeit slightly delayed) on a bunch of “pirate” radio stations. It’s all over the Internet in the form of podcasts and progressively downloadable files. If you search hard enough, you’ll even find a few brazen souls streaming the shows. Is it legal to rebroadcast a “free” radio show? Is it legal to rebroadcast a “pay per listen” or “subscription” radio show without permission or payment? Should there be a legal way to do it for free? (If you answered yes to any of these questions, stop reading and call a lawyer.)
Howard has a loyal following of 13- to 32-year-old males. (In truth, his audience spans a much wider demographic, but he has a substantial number of young listeners.) These “millennials,” or “digital natives,” have been trained to believe that stuff you can watch or that you can listen to should be free. They have the tools, they have the talent, and they are motivated to obtain anything digitally that they don’t want to pay for.
Ironically, the “King of All Media” is now going to have to enlist the help of his nemesis (the Federal Communications Commission) to search and destroy the pirates that are cutting into his profits. Ahhh… advanced media makes strange bedfellows.
I wonder just how many naked bisexual bikini models will be in the studio when Howard makes the call to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to ask for help. The mind verily boggles.
Anyway, one can be disappointed at the reality of broadcast pirate radio and downloadable bootleg files without being surprised. As ABC’s Rick Mandler has always said, “Free is very pro-consumer.”
As always, your thoughts on the subject are far more important than my own.
Kudos to Adam Janovic of Ingalls & Snyder, whose thoughtful e-mails and insightful questions prompted me to write this column.