Stern, Howard

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STERN, HOWARD (1954– ), U.S. broadcasting personality. Born in Jackson Heights, Queens, Stern was raised in nearby Long Island. He graduated from Boston University, where he produced bawdy comedy like the King Schmaltz Bagel Hour on the campus radio station. (Stern was first introduced to radio by his father, Ben Stern, a radio engineer.) Stern started at a tiny radio station in Briarcliff Manor, a New York City suburb, for $4 an hour and moved to stations in Hartford, Conn., and Detroit, Michigan, before landing a choice spot on a Washington, d.c., station, where his unadulterated, scrappy on-air personality was honed. Stern was fired but landed in New York City in 1982 in the coveted afternoon drive home slot on wnbc-am. His outrageous humor on wnbc was terminated after two years, and he joined wxrk on the fm band in New York in 1985. There he produced one more outrageous program after another. Stern's audience grew as his show went into syndication, beginning in Philadelphia in 1985. Stern's conduct cost his employer Infinity Broadcasting $600,000 in fines for indecency. He was forced to apologize when he said that he prayed for the death of the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. In 1990 Stern started a television version of his show, essentially a visual version of his radio show, although nudity was obscured. Nevertheless his popularity grew and the radio and television shows got high ratings in such cities as Los Angeles, New Orleans, Cleveland, Las Vegas, and Baltimore. In 1994 Stern ran for governor of New York on the Libertarian Party ticket on a platform that included bringing back the death penalty and eliminating daytime traffic construction. Stern abandoned the race but the newly elected governor signed the Howard Stern Bill, which restricted construction to nighttime on state roads on Long Island and in New York City. Stern wrote an autobiography, Private Parts, which became the basis for a movie of the same name in 1997. Another book, Miss America, was published, concentrating on the inner workings of the show. Both books reached the top of the bestseller list. After the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001, Stern continued live broadcasts in a subdued tone and won praise from many listeners. In February 2004, Stern was indefinitely suspended by Clear Channel Communications, his syndicator, in six markets, supposedly because of his sex-charged conversation with an on-air guest. Fed up with constantly butting heads with the fcc and feeling unsupported by his corporate parent, Stern signed a five-year, $500-million deal with Sirius Satellite Radio, with broadcasts beginning in January 2006. The arrangement, in which Stern can be as uninhibited as he wants because he is not using public airways, relied on the potential for Stern to increase the Sirius subscribers from 1 million to 8 million. Sirius devoted two round-the-clock channels for Stern's show and other material he developed.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]