Howard Stern: I'm Baaaack

Howard Stern's (search) radio show is expanding to nine new markets, including four where his show was taken off the air over indecency concerns.

Stern's syndicated morning program will air on stations in Houston; San Diego; Tampa, Fla.; Pittsburgh; Orlando, Fla.; Austin, Texas; West Palm Beach, Fla.; Rochester, N.Y.; and Fresno, Calif., all owned by Infinity Broadcasting.

In February, Clear Channel Communications (search) — the nation's largest radio chain — dropped the popular shock jock from its stations in Rochester, Orlando, San Diego, Pittsburgh and two other markets after complaints by federal regulators. In early June, Clear Channel also agreed to a record $1.75 million settlement with the Federal Communications Commission to resolve indecency complaints against Stern and other radio personalities.

Stern made the announcement of his show's expansion at a Wednesday morning news conference aired live on his radio show.

He also railed against the increased scrutiny he has received in recent months from the FCC (search). Stern and the FCC have battled for years, with Infinity paying $1.7 million in 1995 to settle various violations by Stern.

Stern said the FCC's enforcement "has a chilling effect on all broadcasters."

Federal law bars radio stations and over-the-air television channels from airing references to sexual and excretory functions between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when children may be tuning in. The rules do not apply to cable and satellite channels or satellite radio.

Infinity Broadcasting (search) President Joel Hollander expressed support for Stern, saying: "Howard has dominated the radio landscape for more than 20 years."

Stern's listeners are "one of the most loyal audiences in radio who will no doubt embrace his return," Hollander added.

Clear Channel, in dumping Stern, said it feared any continued association with him and his show — which features sexually explicit talk and off-color humor — might lead to losing their station licenses.

Later Wednesday, Infinity Broadcasting sued Clear Channel in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, contending that Clear Channel violated its license agreements when it suspended Stern's program on six stations. It sought at least $10 million in damages.

The chief legal officer of Clear Channel, Andy Levin, said that Stern was "the only one who has broken the law."

"His contract explicitly requires his show comply with all FCC rules and regulations," Levin said. "On several occasions, it clearly did not. Clear Channel Radio had both a legal right and an obligation to stop broadcasting it."

Within a couple weeks, Stern's show, which draws millions of die-hard listeners, will be on 45 stations — 27 owned by Viacom Inc.'s Infinity Broadcasting unit.