Eminem Hits the Airwaves

Satellite radio provides a safe haven for controversial artists

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Eminem is heading into orbit, and other censorship-wary artists and radio personalities may not be far behind. Starting this fall, Slim Shady will have his own channel on Sirius' satellite-radio network. Listeners will need a special receiver and a subscription, which costs about thirteen dollars a month. In return, the platinum-selling artist and hip-hop mogul is promising fans a different kind of listening experience.

"This channel gives me a direct outlet to the streets and our audience," says Eminem, whose "The Real Slim Shady" was deemed indecent by the Federal Communications Commission in 2001 (the ruling was later reversed). "No middleman, no playlists, no bullshit. And most of all, no censorship."

Em will be one of the executive producers of the station, which will showcase him and his D12 crew, as well as Shady Records stars including 50 Cent and Obie Trice. But Shady radio promises to spin records from across the hip-hop universe, from old-school favorites to rare tracks and mix tapes. "It's gonna be essentially a destination to get and hear things that other people aren't playing," says Paul Rosenberg, Eminem's manager.

Programming plans for the station are still up in the air. But mix-tape king DJ Green Lantern, who will have a show, says Eminem's influence will be everywhere. "Me and Em might sit down and say, 'This is some of the music that shaped my life,' and I might put together a whole two-hour block," he says.

Because satellite radio is commercial-free, the as-yet-unnamed station won't face pressure from advertisers to tone down its act. "Like, I can have Em and 50 up there just cursing like crazy and doing whatever they want," Green Lantern promises. "If you're a fan of Em speaking his mind, get ready for a whole lot of that."

Is Sirius worried that Em's antics will go too far? "Not in any way, shape or form," says Scott Greenstein, president of entertainment and sports for Sirius. "He's entitled to say what he wants."

After a shaky start, satellite radio is developing into a viable choice for listeners tired of commercials and cookie-cutter playlists on regular radio. Sirius has 500,000 subscribers and expects to hit one million by the end of the year; its competition, XM, has two million users paying about ten dollars a month for its digital satellite network.

Howard Stern has flirted publicly with moving to satellite radio, too. And the raunchy, popular Opie and Anthony Show will probably move to XM or Sirius before the end of the year, says Greg "Opie" Hughes. The nationally syndicated program was canceled in 2002 after the hosts broadcast audio of two people having sex. "We feel if we went back to commercial radio we'd have a big bull's-eye on our heads," Hughes says. Like Em, he thinks moving to satellite radio is about creative control, not just the ability to swear on-air. "Basically," Hughes says, "we'd be able to do a show without looking over our shoulders all the time."