NPR Sick Of Howard Stern Butting In; Wants FCC To Recall FM Modulators

from the interference-problems dept

A few years back, the UK decided to ban certain FM modulators such as the “iTrip” device that would let you broadcast your iPod a short distance at a low frequency on your radio, claiming that it was breaking the law that banned “pirate” radio stations — even if it could only broadcast a few feet. Earlier this year however, a bunch of radio stations in the US started complaining that these FM modulators from both things like the iTrip and that were popular with satellite radio systems were causing problems on the road. Basically, as someone drove by with one of those modulators, the broadcast would break into other passing cars’ radios. In order to make it clear what a problem this was, they talked of things like Howard Stern and gangsta rap breaking into Christian radio stations. This seemed a little silly, but at the same time, the FCC began an investigation into reports that the modulators from XM and Sirius went beyond specifications. Apparently, NPR isn’t happy with the FCC’s efforts so far. They conducted their own study, which found that 40% of the devices exceed FCC limits and are demanding that the FCC recall the devices. A separate study by the National Association of Broadcasters also found that more than 75% of the device exceed their power limits. It may be true that these devices exceed the set limits, but it still seems to take things a bit far to claim that “these modulators pose a significant threat” to public radio. There’s nothing wrong with recalling the devices if they do exceed the set specs, but it’s hardly such a threat. In fact, as the article notes, when the modulators are set to the proper levels, it’s possible that the reverse happens: and NPR signals will break into people listening to Howard Stern on their satellite radio. Will that pose just as significant a threat?

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Comments on “NPR Sick Of Howard Stern Butting In; Wants FCC To Recall FM Modulators”

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thomas says:

Re: transmitter

Try the Belkin TuneCaster II. It has a digital scale from 88.1 to 107.9 by .1 and comes with a car lighter power adaptor or runs on 2 AAs. Build a AC adaptor at Radio Shack and use a long cable to connect to your home computer. I’ve used them for years to transmit around my house, and they cover very well from one end to the other. The long cable acts as an antenna, and you should always set the source volume to about 95% and control it at the speaker. The lighter adaptor also works as an antenna and boosts the single. They also have a lifetime guarantee. Get one for the car and one for home and jam on.

Matt says:


Is this really that big of a threat? I can’t imagine that if I’m zipping down the road in my “Road Warrior-esque” 1988 Chevy Blazer and listening to obnoxious mid-90s Norwegian death metal, that it’s really going to have that much of an effect on the radio playing in the 2006 Toyota Prius driven by “Granola Sue” as she’s listening to NPR. Or a mini-van full of Christians on their way to Prayerfest 06.

Seriously, what are the odds on my iTrip, overpowered or not, really impacting their choice of music? At least two conditions (there are probably more, but screw it; I don’t want to think any more than is absolutely necessary.)

1) They’re within the zone-o-control emitted by my iTrip, whatever that radius happens to be.
2) They happen to be listening to the same frequency that my iTrip is tuned to.

Granted, either condition is POSSIBLE, and for that matter, it’s POSSIBLE for both to happen. Of course, it’s POSSIBLE that Brittany Spears will become a responsible parent and a decent human being, or that George Bush will pull his head out of his fourth point of contact. Just because it’s POSSIBLE, doesn’t mean it’s LIKELY.

NPR, in more ways than one, needs to grow the hell up.

DoGooderJohnnyD says:

Re: C'mon...

I commute through downtown LA in both the morning and evening rush. Luckily I live only 4 miles away, so it’s managable. Still, in the traffic between home and work I frequently (every day, particularly on the Glendale Blvd stretch) get my station interrupted. The stations I listen to are grouped in the low end of the FM band.

Yes, the nuisance is real. Yes, I wish they would recall the devices. No, I don’t think it will happen, especially since the consumer base this would effect is populated pretty heavily with people with a high sense of entitlement. I think if you told a lot of these people that their devices exceeded FCC regulatory levels for radio transmissions, they would be slightly pleased at the higher performance they’re getting for their dollar.

Not So SelfRighteous says:

Re: Re: Re: C'mon...

Your point actually shows that a “sense of entitlement” exists on your side of the fence as well.

Additionally, Sirius has TWO channels of NPR material a swell as CSPAN and BBC channels. If you are a “darker shade of pink” there is FoxNews also.

If you want to find frequencies that may help find a clearer frequency for your Sirius/XM/ipod transmitter, go here and put in your zip code

Sean says:


I have a Sirius unit in my truck, and find that it is underpowered. The popular station around here is B104.1 From 5 feet from the stereo, i cant even over power my radio to hear the Sirius unit. The only possible channels i can tune it to are the ones that are completely dead, otherwise my Sirius will fade in and out and most of the time be overpowered by the real FM station. I don’t see how its possible for people just driving by to listen to the satellite unit when there already on a FM station that has a strong signal.

lovin' the satellite says:

Re: Frequency

Agreed–I have the same problem especially on long trips and often have to change the receiving station. According to the instruction guides, the radius is only about 30 feet at the most. If they’re picking it up, they need to back off because they’re obviously driving toooooo close. I’m waiting for complaints about stations in the car being played too loud and offending others–prepare to drive with windows up at all times!

Anonymous Coward says:

First of all these devices are crap anyway.

Second of all, I have experienced this quite often. I listen to 88.5, and there is a spot that I drive by on my way to work that every day has the sirius comedy station broadcasting on one of these transmitters from a building nearby. Point is this situation occurs, and while I’m not offended (annoyed a bit maybe) I can see how if the wrong thing was on sirius at the time the wrong person drove by it could be a problem.

Bob says:

A problem.

Whether you hate Christians or NPR listeners is not the issue (feel bad for the Christains who listen to NPR and see this set of comments).

A recall will halt the flow of more devices outside the limits and attrition will reduce their numbers. I have used these devices for more than 10 years and do just fine setting them on empty stations. Set it near your radio and you don’t have to worry about interference from anyone else.

You know, it would not surprise me at all to find that Howard Stern listeners are trying to jam the signals of Christian stations just to annoy people they won’t tolerate.

misanthropic humanist says:

Easy to make your own, even a child can.

Daniel, you can build an FM transmitter. It is trivial, I built one aged 8 and used it as a “walkie talkie” over a half mile range, through walls too.

You need two transistors like a BC108, a couple of capacitors, five or six resistors and a small coil.

You can find the circuit onine anywhere, or in an old electronics book.

Banned?! By religious freaks! Stupid twunts.

You lot, you Americans that went to the Moon and all that… you amazingly technologically advanced heros of acience and creativity…what happened?

Come on, educate yourselves, empower yourselves, stop taking it up the ass from a bunch of frightened little schoolgirls.

Geren (user link) says:

Yeah, right ....

I’ve got one of those little transmitter things. Mine’s made by B****n. I’m lucky if I can get the damned thing to “broadcast” more than eighteen inches, let alone into another car. The broadcasters need to get (1) a clue and (2) a life.

Then again, if the broadcasters would put on something that people actually wanted to listen to, they wouldn’t have to worry about “competition” from people getting control over what they listen to.

Christian S. says:

Bogus Claim

As a subscriber to SIRIUS and an owner of a car-mounted receiver, I can tell you first hand that this is a ridiculous claim. The Satellite receiver has a very weak FM signal which only really works on FM frequencies that DO NOT have an actual radio station designated to them. Since you have the ability to alter what frequency your receiver broadcasts at, and considering that choosing a frequency that already has a real radio station broadcasting on it has a serious effect on sound quality, I fail to see how this would pose a problem. Furthermore, I find it difficult to believe that those persons listening to Howard Stern and “gangsta” rap would choose to broadcast their signal on the Christian so and so station, especially since the signals will often be confused by your stereo, resulting in a Stern/Christian Music/Gangsta rap remix at times. Do people really have NOTHING better to do?

I can't hear you says:

If you think they should be banned

I just want to remind you that the airwaves are owned by the people, not the broadcasters. People is all-inclusive–US with transmitters, and YOU who want them banned. We have every right, per US law, to use low power broadcasting to listen to what we want. My transmitter is always tuned to a frequency that has no existing broadcast. How is that hurting you?

Rather then a sense of entitlement, as DoGooderJohnnyD stated above, it is my right as a US citizen to use my airwaves.

If your broadcast station is being drowned out by a personal transmission, then THAT person needs to change the frequency they are broadcasting on. Easy solution. I have no problem with that. But don’t start writing new laws to appease a handful of people who want to control what I get to listen to.

A few years ago my arse says:

FM transmitters have been banned in the UK since the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1949. If that’s what you mean by a few years ago then fair enough but somehow i don’t think the law was designed to combat the iTrip. They are soon to be legalised though. They are also just illegal to operate they are not illegal to own or sell. Loads of people have them.

taxciter says:

The FCC is lame and needs Power Organs

The FCC sets its priorities under political pressure, and said pressure is the result of organized people pissing off stupid people through the mass media and the very same public airwaves the FCC is tasked to regulate. Here in Virginia we have 2 NPR/Public Radio stations on the same frequency, 89.5. One is north of me on the Eastern Shore and one has its tower to the southwest in Driver, VA. The FCC has done nothing to help solve the “multipath” interference that has been present for over 20 years. People move to town, complain a few times, and give up. I tried to care once, even made my own signal measurements and sent a report to the nearest station, WHRV. My answer was “the FCC will do nothing to change the frequency of either station.” It very sux when you need the government to do what the people can’t do for themselves. Of course, the govt is more likely to act on behalf of organized power, so if any of you guys have power organs, go talk to them, m’kay?

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“The rule is:

If you need your news release noticed, mention Howard Stern.”
-Pope Ratzo

Very good point. If this were a serious concern, it wouldn’t matter what is being overrun by who. This isn’t a noble cause to protect the sanctity of the airways, this is a whine-fest by one or two groups to have thier broadcast protected. Hense the reason they played the entertainment industry’s equivalent of the Race Card. Good ol’ Howwie.

Now… I know it’s been mentioned here that these Mod’s usually broadcast on dead channels. I have one and if there’s even the slightest strength of outside signal, my music goes to crap. So… if you’re listening to your radio, which is picking up a nice and clear signal, how would anyone around you be overriding that signal with a little pocket transmitter? Why would anyone even be transmitting on those channels?

Since I’m lazy and I hate the institution of having to create an account to view a news story, I didn’t read the linked article. Did this thing even address the question of why people would be degrading their own music reception by transmitting in competition to a 1.21 Gigawatt tower?

Seriously though, it seems to me that if this is an issue, instead of trying to ban the use of these things (is it “for the kids” yet?), why don’t we just set aside a small range of frequencies for these things? One or two channels on the low end and one or two on the high ought to do it. Heck, the first one of these things I ever owned had only 4 channels to choose from.

Oh wait… we’re not doing that because this isn’t really a serious concern… just a whine-fest.

::hands NPR a tissue and a glass of Get the F**K Over Yourself::

Darf Vader says:

I have a Sirius home/car unit. Once, after having returned from a trip, I left the car’s radio tuned to the FM frequency I selected on the Sirius unit. At first I couldn’t figure out why I was receiving Howard Stern in the car until I realized I left the Sirius unit on inside the house. The signal stayed fairly strong up to two blocks away. Testing whlle on the highway revealed that the lower power of the cigarette adapter only pushes the signal out for a good 8 car lengths.

No way will I give that thing up. Its powerful enough to cut through all but the strongest of FM signals which is important while driving through cities. The AAA powered transmitter for my MP3 player becomes worthless anytime I get within 15 miles of a city.

RevMike (user link) says:

Set aside some open channels

Seriously though, it seems to me that if this is an issue, instead of trying to ban the use of these things (is it “for the kids” yet?), why don’t we just set aside a small range of frequencies for these things? One or two channels on the low end and one or two on the high ought to do it. Heck, the first one of these things I ever owned had only 4 channels to choose from.

I’m right there with you on this one. I live in the NYC area, and the markets are so close together here that these devices are near unusable. There are literally now open spaces on the dial, and any trip of more than a few miles requires retuning every 15 minutes or so.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have two Siruis radios. The older one can be picked up nearly two blocks away. My new one barely makes it 18 inches to my radio. I always get interference from radio stations cutting into my Sirius.

The fact is that the NAB is doing whatever they can to attack satellite radio, and Howard is the most prominent radio personality to ever exist. The NAB “members” stand to lose bilions in advertising revenue as terrestrial radio market share shrinks, and people move to satellite because they are fed up with the BS and commercials on broadcast radio. Satellite radio will take over as the dominant way of listening, much as cable TV has taken over from over-the-air TV broadcasts. One day there will be nothing but college stations and religious broadcasts (i.e. Shortwave radio) on FM, and everyone will be listening to Satellite. Some will say “I’ll never pay to listen to radio”, but that is what people said about watching TV.

JeffDeWitt says:

Re: Death of terrestrial radio

You have a point about the NAB, but radio isn’t going away anytime soon. particularly AM radio.

Satellite radio is cool, and the fact you can drive across the country listening to the same radio station is amazing… of course you can also do it while driving on the same road, eating at the same restaurants, and stying at the same motels…

Radio, particularly AM radio, can’t be beat for providing local information and giving travelers a bit of the flavor of an area. It will also keep going when other communications are down. A few years ago a major hurricane came through here and about all most of us had was radio… and it was a Godsend.

Jeff DeWitt

I'd Prefer Stern To NPR Anytime says:

As If NPR Actually Gives News

On the weekends going home from work, there is limited stations to choose from and have listened to NPR from time to time. There stories lack interesting topic, details, and pertinence to anyones life. And then, between stories, are the lousy music genre I call garbage (it’s very gay).
I would praise the Lord if Howard Stern was interjected into my radio by any means, be it a miracle or a Tech Dirt nerd with an experimental high power transmitter built in his garage.
Religion are for the individuals who can not be individual due to lack of mental stability. They must be told by others that they are “loved by God”, “will live after death”, and my personal favorite joke, “have a purpose in life to spread the word and your seed (sperm/eggs)”.
Without the support of others like themselves, they would be hopeless and devoid of all meaning. Life would seem empty to them because they don’t have common sense, let alone intelligence. Selectively they choose what someone else said is right and wrong for there own opinion, which is how they are able to quickly form a mass protest against others who are enjoying themselves.
I propose a law seperating church from state so that the government does not carry out such ridiculously false, unprovable claims the churches constantly spew upon others. I know there is a seperation law, but it has been set up to allow free reign for churches and it’s members to exploit the hard earned dollars of tax paying citizens who are afraid of dying because of guilt from past sins. In the Bible it clearly states that no man is free from sin, since Eve ate the forbidden fruit every ones blood is tainted of sin. So why fear death because of sin? Paying another sinner will not remove sin, so why pay these lazy bastards who don’t want to work next to you? Taxes charged on ministries is also significantly lower than other businesses (that is why they are so abundant).
Remove “beliefs” in fairy tales from the world and watch the people get smarter. You can believe Muhammed, Jesus, Buddha, or even Katie Couric will save your ass and give you a peaceful eternity after death, but in the meantime you are wasting your only REAL life while crossing your fingers with wishful thinking. How pleasing to your make believe friends it must be when you tell everyone around you to accept your friend that they can’t see or hear (and neither can you, but since you can’t get real pretend they exist)?

DoGooderJohnnyD says:

Re: As If NPR Actually Gives News

You completely missed the point. It doesn’t matter what is being interrupted by what. Replace the interrupted signal in the examples with somehting you wanted to listen to, and replace the interrupting signal with something you don’t want to listen to. It’s true that the airwaves belong to the people, so then I should have the ability to receive the signal I’m expecting without being pre-empted by someone with an overpowered personal transmitter.

I think it’s asinine to say that this sort of pre-empting is “good” just because the stations in the examples are stations you don’t happen to like. This could just as easily be happening on whatever it is you like. You say you like stern, so this could have been his show getting interrupted if he were still on an FM network.

You are entitled to your gadget, but only as long as it’s not interfering with other people’s radio experience, regardless of what it is they’re actually trying to listen to.

derek gardiner says:

howard stern fm modulators

I think this is just stupid first of all, we do live in america where as long as you don’t knoc G.W Bush like the Dixy Chicks everything will be ok. Howard Stern gets on people’s nerves due to the fact that the truth is hard to listen to. Second I pay for my radio and therefore I listen unrestricted. How many radio stations are on 88.1 fm? My Sirius radio even broadcasts below and above what a typical radio should recieve. If you pull up next to me and either hear what’s on my radio due to my windows being down, or some dumb ass trying to tune in where there are no radio stations anyway. In short america quit being nosey, and trying to micro manage me.

Shane says:

Re: howard stern fm modulators

How many stations are on 88.1? According to the FCC there are 548 stations on 881, most of them with less than 1000 watts of power. It would not be difficult at all for one of these devices to overpower these relatively tiny stations unless you were relatively close to the station’s main transmitter.

MissingFrame (user link) says:

If you don't like it, change the channel ...

Oh wait, you’re broadcasting on MY CHANNEL. I don’t care what you’re listening to, but FCC limits are there for a reason and legit engineers stay awake long hours to meet them. This isn’t a war between NPR and Howard Stern, it’s a war between lazy and/or negligent companies not meeting their specs stomping on radio stations that are running on a shoe-string budget.

Ivory Bill says:

Re: If you don't like it, change the channel ...

Thank you for your voice of sanity. The FCC not only regulates broadcast frequencies and amplitude, but at one time, their licensing process and regulations assured local ownership and participation, resulting in a diversity of things to listen to.

The immediate question, though has to do with the broadcast amplitude of a certain type of device that broadcasts FM over a broadcast frequency. My suspicion is that many of these devices are manufactured over spec, causing the interference. Knowing use of such a device is the equivalent of playing your music at ear-splitting volume in a crowded apartment building.

However, this would not be an issue, and there would be no market for XM and Sirius, had we not turned the radio waves over to Clear Channel, et al.

Robert Atkinson (user link) says:

Smart Radios

At some point, the FM repeaters will get smart enough to listen before they transmit. I will admit that it’s a little cumbersome to be expected to change your FM station every 60 miles when a radio station is found to be transmitting on which was an hour ago… free.

Smart radios are just about the only solution here, since most of the dial in some areas is blank.

JC says:

I’ve been saying for years that car stereos need to have an input jack on the face. Practically every receiver/home stereo has input on it, why should my car stereo (which I spent more $$ on than any other stereo I own) be any different. Is it because the FCC has us by the balls? Very likely. If we can listen to our own personal audio devices, we have less chance of hearing those oh so important things called commercials (which make rich people richer). But then they let us use the unreliable FM modulator. It makes no sense.

But seriously, does anyone know why we can’t just run an audio cable from the heaphone jack of an ipod, XM/Sirius receiver, laptop, discman, or any audio device directly into a car stereo? There would be no need for a FM modulator at all. All we would have to do is drop $2 on a cable instead of damn near $50 on a chincy FM modulator that produces poor sound quality (usually not stereo) and picks up other interference causing the frequency to need frequent resetting.

Someone has to have an answer for me out there…

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I’ve been saying for years that car stereos need to have an input jack on the face. Practically every receiver/home stereo has input on it, why should my car stereo (which I spent more $$ on than any other stereo I own) be any different.”

My dad had a… dunno, 96? 97?… Mitsubishi Galant that had an input jack that would take a headphone connector. I thought that was the coolest thing in the car. Then I never saw anything like it again. However, I know that the new Yaris and Honda’s equvilant do have the connector for that now. Maybe before long the Modulators will be a thing of the past like the old cassette adaptors.

Shane says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually, many new GM and Chrysler cars now come with factory installed line inputs. About 75% of the rental cars I have driven recently from these manufacturers have had them.

Personally, I am not a big fan of the FM modulators, but not because the overpowered ones interrupt my listening enjoyment. I just think they give poor audio quality in general when compared to a direct connection.

you says:


These things were annoying as anything in college. Try living in a cramped dorm trying to use your ipod or XM with 50 other people in small area. You couldn’t, You would get mix what other folks are listening to, trying mixing U2 with a book on tape.
I am an NPR listener and can attest to the fact that these deceives interfere. Not only did I have trouble in the dorm, nothing like hearing Prairie Home Companion interrupted by rap music. I live in a small city and can’t listen to NPR on my way to work, by the time I sit through the light with all the high school kids with these devices I’ve given up trying to get the station.
On a funny note some person in the office building I work in listens to learn to speak Spanish tapes at lunch time every day. I decided to save some money and learn along with her.
Security wise I always new when my dorm neighbor was around I could pick up his station I also new when he was gone.

Jason Ivaska says:

Why am I not surprised that a filthy lib organization like NPR would be bitching about this? You can’t blame them, though…after all, they operate in complete opposite of other radio stations. THEY have to PAY the radio station to carry them, because nobody wants to listen to that idiotic liberal drivel. Normal programs GET paid to be aired. Also, shouldn’t encourage your co-workers to fiddle with the dial in customers cars. Most people do not like that. My dad got a guy fired for fucking with his radio. He’s more anal about it than most, but just keep it in mind. Or at least make sure they put it back where it was when it came in.

Shane says:

Re: Re:

“Why am I not surprised that a filthy lib organization like NPR would be bitching about this? You can’t blame them, though…after all, they operate in complete opposite of other radio stations. THEY have to PAY the radio station to carry them, because nobody wants to listen to that idiotic liberal drivel. Normal programs GET paid to be aired. Also, shouldn’t encourage your co-workers to fiddle with the dial in customers cars. Most people do not like that. My dad got a guy fired for fucking with his radio. He’s more anal about it than most, but just keep it in mind. Or at least make sure they put it back where it was when it came in.”

Are you kidding? NPR PAYS stations to air their stuff? That’s news to me… Having worked for various NPR member stations, I can most assuredly say that that is NOT the case. Member stations pay insane amounts to air NPR programming.

Davey says:

This ain't about NPR

This is a technology. If any transmitters are interfering with broadcast reception, whether it’s NPR or Christian stations or Clear Channel Crapola, it’s a violation of the rules. If the tech doesn’t work it has to be modified or withdrawn, period. Maybe the incompetents at the FCC allowed them to use the wrong frequency, maybe the specs are wrong, who knows. Fix it or dump it.

Northwest Stern-for-free Fan says:

This is awful!

If they do this, how will I be able to get my TOTALLY FREE fix of Howard Stern?

I say this because I can get Howard on my home FM radio thanks to one of my neighbors who has a home sat radio. They also have a totally wide-open 802.11g access point and cable broadband that I’m using to hit the internet. [Thank you and God bless you, Dylan and Megan!!]

If NPR is so distraught at the forces of free-market capitalism trampling their ultra-liberal viewpoint, then they ought to stop accepting grants and donations from Big Business. For example, they go on and on and on and on endlessly about The Evils Of Agri-Business and then take money from ConAgra and ADM [Archer/Daniels/Midland] who are the Devil Incarnate as far as monoculture genetically engineered crops. F***ing hypocrits, but what else can you expect from a creature of the State.

As far as the Christian stations are concerned, I’d weep bigger tears for them if churches paid property taxes on their sometimes rather fabulous real estate.

Tack Furlo (user link) says:


Wow, besides the entire issue that mos of these devices (such as the iTrip, specifically) have been certified by the FCC before they hit the market anyway (which would mean if the FCC recalls them, they’re recalling a product that they themselves said is okay anyway) and also tested by independent labs (sch as CE or those other peoplewho have their logos on the iTrip) I found #11’s post astonishing.

I didn’t know Christians were listening to NPR now? Since when did people who don’t believe in evolution or for that matter even electricity (see: Amish) decide that NPR, purveyors of both evolution and electricity, are okay for listening?

Perhaps now they believe that those FM Radio Waves are the product of Intelligent Transmission instead of an electricity-powered radio tower? Perhaps they’ve developed a filter that replaces the word “evolution” with “creation” every time it’s broadcast too?

Maybe that’s what this is really about. Maybe the Christians who listen to NPR are just pissed because their word filter can’t be recoded to bleep out Stern’s F-bombs? Or, knowing that they don’t exactly support high-tech stuff, perhaps I should say reweaved instead of recoded?

Tack Furlo (user link) says:

On the other foot

Put the shoe on the other foot for a minute, if you can. What happens if or when NPR goes to satelite radio? Or even better, what happens when someone downloads one of the 5 or 10 different NPR podcasts? If I’m listening to an NPR podcast and drive up beside a group of Christians and they have to listen to 3 people knocking GWB (on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, for example) for 30 seconds until the light changes, then what is NPR’s position on that? Do they still dislike the FM transmitter even though it’s them being transmitted? What about the Christians who seem to be allied with the NPR on this? They’re the only real losers here, but if Jerry Faldwell is driving home and we stop at one of those 6-minute-red-lights and he has to sit there and listen to an NPR discussion on evolution for 5 minutes followed by a 1-minute blurb about NPR (so as to definitavely say it’s NPR) then who gets pissed? NPR? Jerry? The FCC? All 3?

I guess I’m just trying to say that if the NPR podcasts on an iPod or a future NPR satelite radio channel were the ones being transmitted over these FM Modulators, would that change the NPR’s position?

And to get really complicated, if a person is listening to Christian music on their iPod and it over-transmis an NPR station, does that piss off both the Christians and NPR still or just NPR?

Just curious how that would work.

Anonymous Coward says:

i found a lot of this very funny. mainly it was the bouts against religion. however i must say, that laws are just that, laws. if the FCC said the transmitters can’t do this or that, they have that. however if the FCC let the tranmitters on the market, that’s their problem.

now, i must say, in my area, NPR is run by the religious right. not the liberal left. but that’s where i’m from.

humm…..when are we gonna nuke the world, and destroy this planet?

Tack (user link) says:


Not sure if I mentioned this, but I don’t have an iPod (it crashed) nor do I have an FM Transmitter. I do like the NPR show I mentioned (“Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me!”) and I’m more or less agnostic (I believe in what the bible says, but only if you interperate it, i.e. not literally. I also believe there is no current religious sect I’ve seen that believes that it can be interperated instead of believed literally. One example is that I don’t believe the moon will turn blood red, but I’ve seen evidence that the atmosphere, with the right conditions, could turn the sky such a color that it might appear red, almost like a glass filter and therefore the moon turning such a color in the end is possible, especially considering the conditions that would be nessicary for the moon to do so. Also when you consider paul wrote that book over 1,800 years ago, then he probably didn’t know what he was seeing anyhow and likened cars to horses, etc.) In short, I don’t agree with most of what any of the three sides in this argument (Stern, NPR, or Christians as a whole) believe. I agree that this is a simple matter of FCC regulations (which aren’t laws per say, simply rules which can be acted upon in court despite not being in an actual book of law. the distinction is that congress doesn’t have to ratify the rules or even vote on them, and that the FCC comissioners can change them at will without congressional approval. The only law related to this is that congress voted that yes, the FCC rules should be treated as law even though they’re not actual law. That was done because a 5-person (or 7 or 9, whatever the FCC is) commission can vote and act much faster than a 500+ member house and a 100 member senate.)

In fact the only related stance I have is that I’m indeed a proud liberal democrat and an XM (not Sirius) subscriber. I don’t like howard stern simply because he ives most liberal arguments and positions a really bad reputation. Things like laws for or against abortion aren’t the kind of thing you throw around on a talk show, or at least they shouldn’t be. We’re talking about weather a person has control over themselves or weather it’s out of their hands (and in the hands of the government/God). That’s not something to spend 3 5-word sentances on – half of which are the F word. Just the same, I don’t like bias in the entire issue, and I believe both NPR and most Christian stations (news or musical) are too far biased either way. To me it’s a simple question of law: does a woman have the right to this or not? A law should be passed one way or another by the congress, and we can argue it from there. I listen to NPR just because it’s funny. It’s no different than watching John Stewart on the Daily Show is to me – weather the news he reports is true or not I take it with a grain of salt and laugh, because if it was meant to be serious, it would be on NBC. Lewis Black is right – if everyone laughs at everything, we may all die 10 years old from exhaustion, but there would indeed be world peace. Wars are started and lost because someone somewhere down the line lost their sense of humor.

To me this is a simple question of law and I want to make clear my opinions are irrelevant. The transmitters shouldn’t be allowed to broadcast that far, end of argument. All I’m saying is that the argument itself wouldn’t have started under any other circumstances. If it was NPR being broadcast on these transmitters or whatnot, the entire argument more than likely wouldn’t have happened,and in the worst case wouldn’t have happened the same way it has. It’s only when a steadfast Christian is driving home in his pickup truck with 6 dead baby deer in the back and his son hears the F word comming through the radio – instead of his own dad’s mouth an hour earlier when he missed a few shots – that this becomes an issue at all.

Can we now all go eat veggie pizza’s and laugh about “how f**king bad they taste” in the middle of baghdad with a few Iraqi’s and Sadam out of prison or do we really have to worry about these transmitters so much in a world where that is actually impossible? My opinions on bush or NPR or God are irrelevant if for no other reason than due to the fact that this post about FM transmitters should be irrelevant. Show me an instance where a broadcast went out over FM radio of an incomming airstrike headed towards Falluja and a tank full of 5 marines died because the signal from their iTrip overpowered their radio and I’ll change my mind, but until then, this isn’t exactly the issue that should be getting 50 comments.

Tack (user link) says:

Something I like


I like Highway 16 (a country music station on XM) and dislike…hmm…the president’s weekly radio address. If your FM transmitter is driving by me in this 1983 MCI Bus (modified to be a motorhome) and I dislike the address, chances are I’ll make a really ugly comment about whatever the next sentance that George says, and then proceed to do one of the following:

1. Run you off the road
2. Pass you
3. Overpower yours with a hotwired CB Radio set to go to your frequency just long enough until the red light changes.

Though probably not in that order. In any of those instances, since your transmitter was overpowering mine I simply reversed the situation in one way or another. The fact is – I agree – the transmitter shouldn’t be that strong in the first place, but like most conservatives and liberals alike, I believe in the general theory of “an eye for an eye” and if you’re too much of an entitleist or whatever it is you keep saying, I’ll just beat you at your own game. Eventually, either you’ll exchange the FM Modulator for one at lower power, or else you’ll wind up in a ditch somewhere halfway between 40-mile-apart exits on the interstate.

That’s not the answer you want, but I do agree the FM Modulators should be recalled, and yes since I have no such modulator I have nothing to lose from this. I still would like to see the recording of the 5 marines dying in the heat of battle due to FM Transmitters being a real problem, though, because again, my positions on Bush, NPR, or anything else, aswell as the Modulator itself, are all irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

Chief100 says:


On road trips I have had the unit in my car (sirius starmate) over powered by both XM and other sirius receivers ( I can recognize the content). Also I just got a sportster 4 (siruis) it sits in my office and I can still pick it up 200 yards from my house – plenty for my neighbors to receive. I do not listen to gospel – and what I do listen to should not broadcast past my property.

Old Guy says:

Over powering your signal

This really great news. I guess this means that soon the FCC will be going after all those people who have ultra-powerful car stereo systems. I mean how many times do I have to listen to the thumping sounds of someone elses’s music? You can have you windows up, stereo and A/C on, and you still hear their choice of music over yours. Where can I write the FCC and get tehm moving on this horrible issue?

Anonymous Coward says:

it’s funny. they can take away the transmistter so you can’t hear it on your radio, but they can’t do a damn if they blast it out of their windows. that you have NO control over. and the FCC can’t do a damn thing about it.

as for recalling my transmitter? I say we form the NTA the national transmitter association. and we can have some sinle actor as our leader, who holds up a transmitter and says “from my cold dead hands”!!!! how great woudl that be?

To PhysicsGuy says:

Re: Duke Nuke Us

” I predict a nuclear attack in U.S. by 2015. With North Korea and Iran both going full steam to fuck us, it will happen before 7 years.”

“wow… that was random… well, first north korea needs to make missiles that can get past japan… knowing them, they’re not gonna be able to do it by 2015”

There are ways to deliver a nuclear attack without a long range missile, PhysicsGuy. Planes, boats, hot air balloons, etc.
In case you were feeling safe at home with over confidence in your governments “protection”.

bignumone (profile) says:

It happened to me

I personally can’t stand Howard Stern, and I’ll be darned if it happened to me.
I was riding down the highway with no one around for miles. When suddenly, breaking over MY FM-modulator was Howard Stern, interrupting my TWiT pod cast to spew some of his disgusting crap. I looked around and couldn’t see anyone except headlights around 1/4 mile away. As this truck approached (at a speed well over the limit) the signal became stronger. Then s/he blew by and as s/he disappeared over the horizon, the signal faded and went away.
That is ridiculous!

Puddin Tain (user link) says:

FM Modulators

Let’s examine it properly…

FM Modulators are not the best solution because they do not produce the best sound. When I have either my Sirius or my XM radios turned on, I have to turn the volume up. And if I forget to turn it back down after I switch back to terrestrial radio or a CD, then I get blasted.

FM Modulators are a nice quick way to hook the satellite radios up to your existing equipment. But the best way is to hook them up by a wired connection. (RCA connectors, which come with most of the radios in the box.) A better alternate to those would be an A2DP Bluetooth connection.

The problem with either of those solutions is that for the car stereo there are far fewer units that accommodate that solution. Who here has a stereo unit in their car that has either BT capability, or a left/right RCA jack? I thought so!

XM and Sirius do bear some of the blame, as they have deals with many major electronics manufacturers as well as the automobile companies. But car stereo equipment has always lagged behind home equipment. And people don’t tend to buy a new car every two years. So the end result is where we are–filling a connection gap in our car stereos with a workable and inexpensive solution.

That solution is interfering with others’ legitimate right to listen to their terrestrial radio stations. So we need a different but still workable and inexpensive solution.

Anonymous Coward says:

In the United States, traditional radio stations have payed to “license” their bit of spectrum. This is a reasonable system that ensures there aren’t several stations broadcasting on the same frequency at the same time. In this case, exclusive access is necessary for the techology to work. Two stations on the same frequency is not a good thing.

With the portable modulators, the excess power creates a larger region of intereference. Since the modulator owner can easily change his broadcast frequency and the radio station cannot, it is reasonable to inconvenience the modulator owner rather than the station operator.

Everything works together better on the practical, technical level if everyone follows the regulations, which are actually quite reasonable in this case.

Larry says:


How many times did you read “…really,…” or, “but seriously…” It’s pretty funny that NPR is ‘flexing’ its muscles. My, how times have changed.
The REALLY funny part is it’s the so-called self-entitled potty mouths that are the ones being offended. I’m glad I don’t listen to radio, anymore…ought to be fun to watch or listen to, though.

Charlie says:

Low Power Radio stations

A lot of NPR, Christian, and indipendant stations have low power licenses. You can get a signal in one part of a city but it is week to non existant in others. People think it is an empty station when they configure the device, but it isn’t. The low power station gets overpowered very easily at close range.

The power limits for these devices are laid out to keep interferance to a minimum.

The best solution is for car stereos and such to have auxilary inputs, and many do. You don’t pick up interfereance or cause it.

Alan says:

NPR and low power

I agree that most NPR and christian music stations are in the low number channels 88.1 -92.9 FM with low transmitter power.It is that way in my city as well. I have a XM MyFi and when I used it on the FM transmit mode I could pick it up about a half a block away and inside my house when my car was parked on the street. So what?! If I want to drive across the US without having to change the station I transmit on, why should I have to. The chance that an adjacent motorist is on the same frequency for a long duration of time is pretty low. If the FCC wouldn’t sell all the low power stations so close to each other in frequency, there would be free channels for iTrip devices and the like to transmit freely.

Heres and Idea. Lets make 88.5 an empty channel in every city so that users that want to have a FM transmit device can use that channel exclusivly. Then only other personal FM transmitters will over power each other.
I find it to be more of an annoyance when the Rap music or obnoxious talk radio or whatever you listen too is turned-up so loud that I can hear it over my XM radio in the first place. I would put the same importance on that pollution as I would on the FM transmitter pollution.
My 2 cents.

Jimmy (user link) says:

Personally, I love it ...

I own a Sirius Starmate Replay and from day one I have been more than surprised, pleasantly so, at the power of the fm transmitter. For a couple of years before I got Sirius I tried many fm transmitters to listen to my iPod. I went through the iTrip, The Monster cable one, always coming up not happy with the results. I live in the DC area and there are very few stations on the dial to play with and all the units I mentioned above left me constantly searching for a new frequency as I drove around the city and suburbs. When I got my Sirius, I was shocked because I have yet to have to search for another freq, the Starmate seems to overpower all of the stations. Being the person on this end, I love it, but I can understand the frustration of other motorists, As the story states however, I find it a little bit of a stretch to call it a danger to public radio. If they are built out of FCC specs, then fine, have them do something about it, but I hardly think you are losing listeners, as a matter of fact NPR is featured prominently on Sirius and are more than likely garnering a much larger audience than they might have otherwise attracted.

craig says:

I hear that the newest models of Sirius radio are weaker.

Anywho – what seems stupid about this whole thing to me is is being overlooked.

Why the hell do you need to have an FM transmitter to listen to satellite radio? I’m not complaining about those people who do have satellite radio, they have no choice in the matter.

I’m not against people having their own FM transmitters, in fact. I’m all for nabbing the spectrum away from the corporations.

I’m just saying that interfacing your satellite receiver with your car audio system via an FM transmitter seems like a horribly inefficient way of doing things. Potential problems for the users, potential problems for non-users.

There has to be a better, smarter way.

Kevin says:

Necessity the mother of invention

Fact is that if my car had a hardwire input on its radio for me to hook up the iPod I would use that. However, that isn’t the case, so I do what I can, which means an FM modulator.

I use a commercial device, and let me tell you what the regular broadcast stations interfere with my device, not the other way around.

Sorry NPR but your claim is bogus here. This is far from being a “significant threat” to public radio. When I am buzzing up the Florida Turnpike and can’t get a radio station to save my butt, I won’t be interfering with anything.


Ryan says:

FM transmitters

Like it or not, these transmitters are illegal under FCC rules. I’m sure once the FCC gets enough complaints they will do something. They won’t get all the transmitters out of your hands, but they’ll curb the sale of them and start fining dealers like they already do with illegally modified CB radios at truck stops. And when your cheapo FM transmitter dies, you won’t be able to buy another one.

The sense of entitlement here is amazing. You’re aware that none of you have a right to broadcast anything on the air without a license, right? Pirate radio broadcasters routinely get fined tens of thousands of dollars and go to jail, in addition to having their equipment seized. Is broadcasting stern to drown out NPR really worth the risk?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: FM transmitters

if they are illegal, why did the FCC allow them to be produced. either the FCC didn’t test the devices thoroughly enouogh, or the company changed the product after testing, or send a “legal” product to the FCC and shipped the “illegal” version.

i will guess the latter is the false one, while the former is the more likely situation. what’s more likely. a company designing 2 specifications, with 2 sets of drawings (none of which get leaked out) to have a more powerful sales product, and a less powerful test version. imagine the papertrai left behind…

or that the fcc didn’t test the product due to all the stuff it gets? complaints, specification reviews, product testing…. what seems likely?

sure the company might do it to “increase” profits, however the risk of fines and whatnot due to being caught would far outweight the small gains they make.

so, as i said, if they are illegal, who let the cat out of the bag? that should be brought up first. did the companys sell illegal products, or is the fcc lacking in their testing? if the latter is true, keep the devices, and have the fcc say we f’d up. actually have them say we fucked up. wouldn’t that be ironic?

it’s not that we have the “right to braodcast” it is the fact that a device REGULATED BY THE FCC said we have the right to use FM frequency to transmit information for a short distance. if we didn’t have the right to broadcast, these transmitters would never have appeared.

the FCC screwed up, let them take the blame, not the manufacturers. if i say you can make something, and then come back and say i was wrong, i made a mistake, who’s at fault? the guy following directions from a superior/authority figure, or the person who didn’t have the correct information in the first place?

WFI GUY says:

Re: Re: FM transmitters

Actuallly, it’s not the devices that are illegal. Nor is it illegal to broadcast without a license….unless you exceed the power output specifications. So, if the FCC used the engineering specifications to approve a device (which they do), then the fault lies with the Quality Control dept. at the manufacturer. It is impossible for the FCC to test each and every device for compliance (that’s why they provide regulatory guidance). This would be akin to someone blaming the speeding ticket on the auto manufacturer because they made a car that can travel faster than the posted limit. The FCC mandates output power levels, and you as the operator are required to follow those regulations. If you have a device that is operating at a higher power level that allowed, both you and the manufacturer are culpable. Not the FCC!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: FM transmitters

the qa dept, can’t test all devices as well. they run product tests, from the specs approved by the fcc. if everything is in compliance, it’s not the manufactureres fault. if the end user has no way of adjusting the power output, the end user isn’t at fault because the device won’t let him be within limits. but if that’s the case, why didn’t the FCC pick up on that in the first place. they should have noticed.

but then again, fcc is a gov’t agency, so they have no real time to do any real work.

oh, and on a side note, the reason there aren’t input jacks on car stereos, is because there is so much money to be made in the after market. why have a simple input jack that costs pennies, when you can have an interface device/cables that cost 100 bucks? and people would/do buy them. so, it makes no sense for the electonics companies to say, nah…i’ll take 5 cents over 100 bucks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: FM transmitters

Anonymous Coward Wrote:

“if they are illegal, why did the FCC allow them to be produced. either the FCC didn’t test the devices thoroughly enouogh, or the company changed the product after testing, or send a “legal” product to the FCC and shipped the “illegal” version.”

:::The FCC doesn’t do the testing. They are tested by independent labs and the reports are sent to the FCC. Maybe the lab slipped up (on purpose or by accident) or the actual production of these devices made them with increased power. Or more likely, users are either illegally modifying their transmitters to increase power or the transmitters aren’t FCC certified in the first places. Many of the transmitters making their way into the US from places like China aren’t FCC certified. Kits from Ramsey etc. don’t require FCC certification because they’re just kits of parts, not actual transmitters.

“sure the company might do it to “increase” profits, however the risk of fines and whatnot due to being caught would far outweight the small gains they make.”

:::Yeah, but companies are stupid like that. Many times they will do something boneheaded and think they can get away with it, and just leave the lawyers to do the fighting.

“it’s not that we have the “right to braodcast” it is the fact that a device REGULATED BY THE FCC said we have the right to use FM frequency to transmit information for a short distance. if we didn’t have the right to broadcast, these transmitters would never have appeared.”

::: The FCC rules are pretty clear. The rules state that a device operating under part 15 must not cause any interference, and must accept all interference received. Users are ignoring the rules and breaking the law by setting up their transmitters on a frequency occupied by a licensed radio station. This may be out of laziness or their inability to find a clear channel, or the inability of the device to change frequency to a clear channel. Either way, the user has the responsibility to shut the device off if it is causing interference. In most cases they are not, because many people believe that they are above the law and that they will get away with it.

Kevin says:

Re: FM transmitters

Well, I am talking about commercially available units from the likes of Belkin, DLO, XtremeMac etc etc etc. Not some homegrown thing. These are routinely sold by all of the major retailers including Apple stores. This isn’t some back alley thing.

If these modulators are all so illegal the FCC would have nixed them from the market awhile ago. If they choose not to enforce, then well, not my problem.

Get off the soapbox there bud.


Robert says:

The buiilt-in modulator on my Sirius Visor receiver allows low-power transmissions all over the FM band, not just in the low-end. I obviously get interference from the commercial and non-commercial broadcast stations and have to reset my freq if I’m in an area with an “on-air” freq in use. I have, however noticed that I DO get some interference from passing cars with these iTrip-like devices. Even with my Sirius located right below my in-dash receiver, apparently my outside antenna is more sensitive to these plug-ins in passing cars. I’m waiting to get to a stop light with one of these right next to me to find out which one they are using. Of course, if you look at the FCC warnings on these devices, they state that you have to accept interference from “licensed” stations and “other” devices. These frequencies, while “shared” are not “guaranteed” to be “yours.”

InSaNeBoY says:

I’ve noticed from time to time my iTrip gets interupped by other people’s FM transmitters. Not a big deal, usually the interferance only lasts for a few seconds, and not long enoug to really make out what that person is playing. The iTrip (1st generation iPod one) is barely able to transmit a clean signal to my car radio, I have to have the radio set to Mono to keep from having too much static.

Now on the radio station bit, they should stop complaining. really. up where I live the christian radio station bleeds over into an ajacent frequency, which happens to be a distant station I like! I ended up putting a big directional antenna on the roof to try and keep it from bleeding over, it works ok, when they’re talking. But when the station plays some loud organ music it obliterates the station I was listining too.

Kevin says:

Re: Arrogant


Don’t confuse arrogance for understanding the facts as they are. RF signals interfere with one another all the time, and this is far from malicious intent. The fact of the matter is that I AM on the opposite side of this all the time. Those pesky commercial (and non-commercial) stations who have tons more power than my DLO device and easily overpower it.

Nevermind actually trying to find a clear station to use here in South Florida. The fact is that to be honest these devices don’t work all that well in many metro areas.

I happen to think NPR’s complaint here is vastly overblown.


Ryan says:

Re: Re: Arrogant

Kevin, you do not have a license. Your transmitter operates under part 15 of the FCC rules, which means that you have to accept any and all interference received, including that which may cause undesired operation.

NPR stations on the other hand have a license and they have every right to complain. They also are primary users on the band, which means YOU as a part 15 user have to yield to their transmissions.

Kevin says:

Re: Re: Re: Arrogant


I don’t believe I ever said I had a license.

And yes I understand the part 15 rules compliance. My point is that if the things are such an issue, than our beloved FCC (who are very simply by their structure a reactionary body) would make sure they are taken off the market.

However, my second point is that I believe the commercial devices we are talking about here are not nearly as much of an issue as NPR wants to make this out to be.

If they cause interference than yes that falls outside the rules of part 15, fine & good. As others have said the user would have responsibility to shut down the device. However, I would challenge anyone to tell me how the average person would know their device is causing interference to begin with.

If the product is a licensed unit under part 15, and on a consumer store shelf and I do not modify it in any way, then I challenge the notion that the user should be villified here. Go after the manufacturer.

You need to show intent, and a malicious intent at that. Otherwise, the unit is performing as advertised and licensed under part 15. If I do not know it is an issue and am not informed by another party then tell me how any kind of fine is either warranted or enforceable.


Kevin says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Arrogant


Additionally I suppose this was what got your ire:

” Those pesky commercial (and non-commercial) stations who have tons more power than my DLO device and easily overpower it.”

LOL come on now, read that with the tounge in cheek it was intended in. The point was my little device doesn’t have the power to overrun anything.


Matty says:

FM Xmitters

I seriously can’t beleive some people are wasting money on FM transmitters – the audio quality out of them is absolute crap!

A ‘tape’ adaptor will probably cost you less than half the price of an FM unit, and gives vastly superior sound.

I haven’t seen a car ‘stereo’ made in the past 5 years that hasn’t included some form of audio ‘line in’ connection – many have a jack on the front of the radio.

Many have a CD changer port that will accept an input from your Ipod via a small control box – I have a Pioneer version of one of these – it gives me full control of my Ipod via the steering control, and the car radio head displays track names/genres/playlists etc – the radio has bluetooth built it, so also acts as a handfree for my mobile – can even use the steering control to dial the phone!

I don’t understand the whiners here wanting their ‘rights’ to illegally bleed over the rights of other people.

– It isn’t about being religious or a Howard Stern fan – it’s about common courtesy to your fellow citizens.

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