Howard Stern in Sirius trouble

CBS Radio has filed suit against Howard Stern and Sirius Satellite Radio, Inc.

The “shock jock” is accused of misappropriating millions of dollars’ worth of CBS airtime before he left for rival company Sirius Satellite Radio in January.

In the suit, which also named Sirius and Stern’s agent Don Buchwald, CBS claims Stern improperly used its airtime to promote his move to Sirius in an effort to attract subscribers to the new service. The transgressions include breach of contract, fraud, unjust enrichment, misappropriation of radio time, unfair competition and interference with Stern’s CBS contract.

Finally, the suit accuses Stern of failing to turn over master recordings of his old show to CBS, which claims to own them.

Stern was motivated, the complaint said, by a clause in his contract that called for Sirius to accelerate the payment of millions of shares to him if certain subscriber targets were met.

Reports of the lawsuit had leaked out earlier this week and Stern called a press conference to pre-empt the claims.

He said he had disclosed his Sirius agreement to CBS, and accused Leslie Moonves, its chief executive, of launching a “personal vendetta”.

Stern switched to satellite radio after years of complaining about the indecency restrictions imposed on terrestrial radio by the Federal Communications Commission.

For the better part of two years he also frequently mocked Mr Moonves, calling him “a snake in the grass”.

“I showed them a way to make money,” Stern said on his Sirius show on Monday. “I syndicated the show. I set record high profits for them. I did everything in this world that they never could have accomplished on their own. But me they obsess on. And me they go after.

“So when somebody tells you that it’s not personal, it’s personal. All hell is breaking loose over there”.

This would be a reference to the preliminary Arbitron radio ratings on Monday which showed that Stern’s key morning drive-time replacements–David Lee Roth in major East Coast markets, Adam Carolla on the West Coast and Rover in the Midwest–had suffered huge ratings declines since taking over in January.

Roth pulled a 1.8 rating for listeners 12 and older in New York in January, compared to Stern’s 7.9 rating in December; Carolla was down to 0.7 in the demo in Los Angeles from Stern’s 2.9; and Rover barely registered with a 0.4 rating in Chicago, down from Stern’s 2.4. The final Arbitron numbers aren’t due until next month.