By on June 30, 2016

subaru howard stern sirius xm

An article entitled “Subaru to SiriusXM Subscribers: Stop Listening to Comedy” from a website called automotiveitnews.org has been making the rounds on social media lately. It talks about an oddity with Subaru-vehicle satellite radios, where they sometimes default to Channel 001, the preview channel, upon starting the car, even when the subscription is paid up.

That may sound like simple software glitch — but it isn’t. It’s actually a Subaru-specific “feature”!

subaru howard stern sirius xm outback

This is how it works: you get to your destination while listening to one of the SiriusXM channels marked with “xL,” an explicit language tag. It could be any one of the comedy, music, or talk channels marked as such, as can seen here on the channel guide. You turn off your Subaru and go about your business. Upon your return to the car, the radio switches to the preview channel, as if your subscription has just run out.

Having recently driven a 2016 Subaru Crosstrek, a great little car, I can tell you firsthand that it’s annoying and can be taken as a glitch. It turns out, however, that Subaru does this on purpose. The reason behind it is that a new driver or passengers can be offended by the content provided by those uncensored channels. Well, shit.

The owner of the Outback in the Automotive IT News article, “a 35-year broadcast journalism veteran,” is deeply upset by this feature. He says that every time he starts his car he has to scroll through his 36 presets, waaahhh, just to find the station he was listening to. The article even goes as far as using the C-word. Censorship!

subaru howard stern sirius xm wrx

I’ve been a Howard Stern fan for years. During my last semester in college, when Howard was still at K-Rock, I was offered an internship at the show on which, unfortunately, I had to pass due to workload and scheduling. I turned my wife into a huge fan. Channel 100 is the first preset in all my radios. I have Artie Lange’s cell phone number programmed into my phone and an invitation to his show. I often use references from the show when talking to my friends who are also fans. I am by no means a “Super Fan” but I know more than Bobo does and I just love the show.

At the same time, I’m a father of an eight-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy. One day, when my daughter was two years old, she asked why we were not listening to Howard while driving. Since then, we only listen to channel 100 when we are driving by ourselves or when the kids are asleep. I make sure that every time I park the car for the night to leave the radio on some other station.

That doesn’t always happen, however. Many times I throw the kids into their seats, start the ignition to warm up or cool down the car, and go back to fasten their seat belts or throw something into the trunk. Right at that time, I often hear Howard’s or Robin’s voice and have to scramble back to the radio or steering wheel controls to quickly change the channels, because will somebody please think of the children!?

Well, Subaru has. I don’t have an issue with this personally. People who often drive with coworkers, clients, and sensitive types shouldn’t have an issue with it, either. The majority of people who drive alone will get annoyed at this, as the feature is not defeatable — but how hard is really to program your presets and press a button to get back your favorite profanity filled station?

Cars have become our own little sanctuaries. When we’re driving alone we sing along with the radio, talk to ourselves, yell at bicyclists, other drivers, and sometimes our own lives. A car is a place we spend a lot of time, but it is not our home or our office. No one is there with us, no one can hear us, and too often we think that no one can see us picking our noses. It is a place where we can listen to whatever we want, even if it’s something some people would never admit to, such as raunchy comedy, sex shows, country music or hardcore rap.

Subaru, in this case, is helping you keep your questionable listening choices to yourself.

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41 Comments on “Subaru SiriusXM Censorship Uncensored – Think of the Children, Alright?...”


  • avatar
    whynot

    Or, you know, Subaru can just make the feature an option that you can turn off in the settings if desired.

    But that would make too much sense.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Ford has (had?) an option where the car could be programmed with limits for a certain key, such as max speed & radio volume. The intent was to keep your kids from being (too) stupid when driving on their own.

      I could see this being an option for that key, but really, it would be more of a channel lock than just a start channel.

    • 0 avatar
      ckb

      Holy smokes this this “feature” annoys the f’ing s— out of me. I bought the SXM subscription early, had my radio reflashed…then replaced…before the dealer found out that this is by design! Yes it bothered me that much cause…millenials or damn liberals or something.

      Many times you start off driving in reverse. This locks out the radio, even the power and mute buttons! Add to that the 3-5 second delay inherent to the touch screen and I’m blasted by miley cyrus or whatever algorithm optimized pop trash (which I’d argue is also pretty awful for my kid) and I’m powerless to stop it. That’s how hard it is to press a button. I still dread turning on the car when I realize I forgot to change the station as I shut down the car.

      Anyway, just give me the freaking disable option! And wtf is TTAC doing taking side of “think of the children” over consumer choice?! I come here for grandiose libertarian rants, not justifications for someone making decisions for me.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      I have no problem with this feature being there for the sensitive souls who need it. But there should definitely be a by-pass option. Subaru seems to have forgotten something: It’s my effing car! They should think twice about being so helpful. Just another step toward the total pussification of America.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “I don’t have an issue with this personally.”

    I do. It should be permanently defeatable.

    “but how hard is really to program your presets and press a button to get back your favorite profanity filled station?”

    How hard is it to switch the channel on your radio before you turn the car off if you are going to be transporting your grandmother or child later on?

  • avatar
    JimZ

    Or, you can turn the radio down or change the station when you go to leave it if you think it’ll be a problem.

  • avatar
    tedward

    I would have a problem with this. I’m also a big Howard fan and I have monkey aged children kicking around who shouldn’t hear it. It takes me literally microseconds to change the channel when the car starts. It’s not like any actual damage is done to the children if in that brief moment they hear an f bomb or the trail end of a vagina conversation. C’mon now, common sense.

    • 0 avatar

      Whoop whoop!

      • 0 avatar
        pb35

        I have 6 yo twins and Howard is my first preset too. I’ve started the car with them strapped in the back while Howard is saying something vulgar as the car starts. While I change it right away, “bad” words are part of life and my kids already know what most of them mean anyway. From their mom, of course. For a PhD, she has a filthy mouth and I love her for it.

        I just finished Artie’s latest book over the weekend, holy cow!

        Oh and as far as that “feature” goes, I’ll never own a Subaru anyway so no loss there!

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I think that’s a nifty little feature, and I could even agree with it being activated by default (maybe with a splash-screen letting you know what happened).

    But it should totally be a feature you can turn off.

  • avatar
    Rik from Chicago

    Another reason to NOT buy a Subaru.
    It’s my car, not Subaru’s.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      Come on! It’s a sensible feature in a sensible Subaru for sensible people who wear sensible shoes. It doesn’t need to make sense, it just has to demonstrate that it cared enough to try to do your thinking for you, so that you wouldn’t have to bother.

      I remember a time when Subarus were just solid little cars that functioned well and just did what a car was supposed to do: get you from point A to point B with minimal fuss, only a modest amount of gas used, and reasonable if not outstanding performance.

      Somewhere along the way, the “I’m from Subaru, I’m here to help you” philosophy came to reign supreme in the courts of Subaru.

      Sorry folks, I will look elsewhere when and if I need a reliable and simple compact that doesn’t try to tell me what it thinks is best for me. It’s not going to be found at Subaru. So move along, there’s nothing to see there.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    I have a habit of turning the radio off upon exiting any car, or when I first start it, but it would irritate me to have it default to another station as soon as I turned it on.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    If you could disable it, fine whatever, no more annoying than any other strange inscrutable “feature” that any other automaker might come up with. But the fact you can’t disable it is just silly.

    Although I also wonder what percentage of Subaru’s ownership base will ever figure out that it is there? If all you ever listen to is the non-explicit channels than you’ll never know.

  • avatar
    maserchist

    I am reminded of the old days when my old Chevelle finally was a runner, no radio hooked up. I listened to the valves “tapping”, the glides planets whirring, the tires on the pavement, other cars on the highway. I wasn’t paranoid(!), I just was escaping the noises of my everyday life, tuning into the car & its symphony. When I finally installed an 8 track player, I only had 1 tape to play – Led Zeppelin 3. I knew where every break was via the track changer. The startup procedure was key in, start motor, pop tape in, go. Took maybe 3 months to actually begin to listen to the entire tape continuously because Zeppelin was drowning out the automotive “music” that I was accustomed to hearing. I still “hear” the track changer when I listen to that album…

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      This! I just listen to my car’s sounds 98% of the time.

      If you drive a lot you’ll become desperately sick of anything you habitually listen to, anyway. So I just preempt that and zen with my ride.

  • avatar
    NotFast

    Can Subaru also do this with Fox News? I hate to expose my children to potentially extreme views too. :-)

  • avatar
    strafer

    Subaru realizes who makes car purchasing decisions in an average family, so appealing to moms is just smart marketing.

  • avatar
    v8corvairpickup

    “Love, it’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru.”
    This radio feature reminds me of the automatic climate control on my 93 Roadmaster. If you don’t turn off the heat or a/c, the next time you turn on the car the fan is on high. Blasting uncooled air right at your face. The only way to avoid this is to remember to turn of the system before turning off the car.

  • avatar
    Acd

    This may be a more annoying feature than a CVT transmission.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    There is zero reason this should be a feature without a disable option. I understand why the feature is there, and some people may find use for it, but to have it not defeatable is just ignorant. I have a suspicion that not all Subaru owners have children and some may have children but not care if they hear a Howard Stern rant.

    I have SiriusXM in my car but I’m strictly a music listener rather than a talk radio person. But, having to navigate back to my favorite channel (Channel 58, Prime Country – don’t judge me) would get annoying very quickly. It’s my car and I want the radio where I left it.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Am I misunderstanding? I interpreted this as saying that the radio flips to 001 if an “xL” channel is selected when the car shuts off. Not all the time.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Given the typical Subaru ownership profile, why wouldn’t it just default to NPR?

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      For most NPR affiliates I know, NPR is only on for part of the day, and they play their own stuff (often classical) the rest of the time.

      But I could certainly see the radio going full HAL:
      “NPR is starting now. Change station to NPR?”
      – No.
      “Changing to NPR anyway, because I know better than you, Dave.”

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        There is some sort of NPR SXM channel which plays NPR content 24/7.

        All things considered, I wouldn’t listen, but it’s amazing how many people of my Gen-X age-bracket do.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          Relax, listening to NPR is perfectly safe.

          It’s all I ever listen to in my cars and I’m still the knee-jerk, racist, class-hatin’ buckaroo my Daddy raised.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    Better that the radio start up in MUTE mode. Regardless of what you listen to, most people don’t want full volume on startup.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    You can’t kid me:

    Major Premise: Subaru knows their customers.
    Minor Premise: Patriot radio is marked as controversial by SiriusXM
    Conclusion: This is to ensure that their customers never let any friends into their cars and accidentally reveal their guilty pleasure of listening to Sean Hannity.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I thought it was the “xL” channels getting the treatment.

      To be fair, then, the “Progressive” channel should be so-marked.

      Alas, it apparently isn’t available on the normal line-up, only via online streaming. So you need to pony up for the “Unlimited” package (as if it isn’t expensive enough — to add insult to injury, I probably dealt with the only moron at SXM who would not deal when I called to renew this year), then have to fork over more $$$ for an unlimited data plan.

      Interesting turn of events.

  • avatar
    fendertweed

    Interesting … I used to listen to Stern but, personally, don’t think I’ve heard anything funny from him since the mid-1990s … at this point IMO he’s the comedic equivalent of a used condom on the sidewalk.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I could swear (no pun intended) that Subaru is not the first auto maker to do this. I’m 99% sure other vehicles do this – if not other aftermarket radios and satellite radio kits. The inability to deactivate the option via menu is a miss.

  • avatar
    TeslaS

    When media system in Tesla doesn’t recognize particular track (it usually can’t find anything for audiobooks) it shows pretty random album art, sometimes pretty disturbing like from some metal albums. It didn’t fetch art from the MP3 metadata and instead always went online to get the image. I had to switch the panel away from the media when kids were in the car quite a few times. Asked Tesla if there is an option to turn off album art fetching or display, no reply.

  • avatar
    GARainman

    This actually just started on my car. I have a 2017 Subie STI and for some reason – it just started doing this last week. I figured I’d hit some magic button somewhere that made it start doing this.

    I can tell you this: Not everyone has kids. Not everyone cringes when some comedian on Raw Dog says the F word. I don’t have any kids and I am a grown up who questionable language doesn’t even register with.

    What DOES register with me is when some nameless, faceless moron decides FOR ME what I should and should not be able to do with my car. To be honest – I want this dipstick outed and have him answer why he thinks his opinion matters more than ALL of the owners out there? We should at least KNOW who this dips**t is…but something tells me he’ll hide in the shadows like the little coward he is. This just smacks of massive amounts of arrogance.

    Yeah, this is a minor annoyance. I get it. I live in the real world where I understand all I had to do is hit a few buttons to get my station back. However, this attitude of people today that their opinion on what you should and should not be able to do overrides yours – that just sets me off. The idea that this little turd thinks he has the right to change what you’re listening to….just makes me very angry.


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