It is beginning to look like shock jock Howard Stern's transition from broadcast radio to an upstart satellite service will be anything but smooth, prompting Mr. Stern to explore whether he can make the leap earlier than expected.
With a little more than a year until Mr. Stern jumps to Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. from Viacom Inc.'s Infinity Broadcasting, the popular radio host has gone on the warpath against his current employer.
The issue is that Viacom has withdrawn its financial support from Mr. Stern's legal fight against Clear Channel Communication Inc., which dropped his show earlier this year after the Federal Communications Commission began a crackdown on indecent broadcasts.
The about-face has infuriated Mr. Stern, who has lambasted Infinity management on the air during his past few shows, but without mentioning the legal issue at the root of the squabble. People close to Infinity say that because Mr.
Stern was secretly negotiating with Sirius while enlisting the support of Infinity's legal team in a suit against Clear Channel, Infinity no longer feels compelled to back him. Spokesmen for Infinity and Sirius declined to comment; Mr. Stern's agent couldn't be reached.
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Mr. Stern is negotiating to get out of his contract with Infinity so he can join Sirius earlier than the 2006 date currently planned. Mr. Stern announced his planned move to Sirius last month, live on his show. Sirius likely would have to pay a steep price to land Mr. Stern early; he brings in some $80 million annually in advertising revenue and $50 million annually in cash flow to Infinity, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Stern's rants have led...