Clear Channel Communications Inc., the home of conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, said it's interested in signing Howard Stern when the shock jock's contract with Sirius satellite radio expires.
That would mark an about-face for the nation's largest radio chain, which yanked his show from its stations in 2004 after his raunchy broadcasts were repeatedly subjected to regulatory fines.
John Hogan, chief executive of Clear Channel's Radio division, told Bloomberg BusinessWeek that Stern would have to accept the government-imposed limits of terrestrial radio.
Stern, whose five-year, $500 million contract with Sirius XM Radio Inc. expires at year's end, does not face the same restrictions with Sirius because that show is distributed over satellite radio.
Although Clear Channel confirmed its interest in Stern to The Associated Press on Monday, the shock jock appeared to dismiss the prospects of signing with the company.
"Once you come on here, it's actually very difficult to go back," Stern said on the "Bubba The Love Sponge" show Thursday.
He said he did get an actual job offer.
"Not a bona fide offer, but people have been making them," Stern said. However, "I can't imagine the day where I would ever work for Clear Channel. That's pretty sure."
Calls and e-mails to Sirius and Stern's agent, Don Buchwald, were not returned.
Stern has repeatedly said on his show that he might quit or retire from satellite radio once his contract expires.
Aside from Clear Channel, it's not clear who in radio would pay up for him.
There's one satellite radio company left and Stern's already on it. While Sirius' finances have improved, the company might not be able to afford him again at half a billion dollars.
Free radio also isn't in great shape these days, struggling with steep drops in advertising and high debt loads. Citadel Broadcasting Corp., the nation's third-largest operator of radio stations, has filed for bankruptcy protection.
Whether or not Stern jumps ship, at least he's got some leverage in his contract talks with Sirius, said Tom Taylor, executive news editor of Radio-info.com, a trade news Web site.
"The dancing has begun," Taylor said.Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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