Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

The Battle To Make Satellite Radio Local

from the what's-the-problem-here? dept

An interesting look at how XM and Sirius - the two satellite radio companies - are offering "local" radio programming, by offering it nationally. It turns out that when the two satellite radio companies started up, people were afraid that they would harm local independent radio stations. So, as part of the agreement to give them spectrum, they were told they could only broadcast nationally. However, when people hop into their cars and head to work in the morning - they want local news, traffic and weather info. So, to get around this policy, both satellite systems are experimenting with local news - but broadcasting it nationally. In other words, even if you're in New York you could tune into the local San Francisco news. While this might be somewhat cool if you happen to be interested in the local traffic/weather/news somewhere else in the world, it's a complete waste of resources. The original reason for the rule makes less and less sense as most "local" radio stations are just playing nationally syndicated content from Clear Channel anyway. It certainly seems like a set of rules that are simply designed to keep away competition, rather than encourage it.

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  • identicon
    Rob Henderson, 17 Mar 2004 @ 5:46am

    Point sources

    Before you go too far afield on the 'regulatory' requirement for nationwide broadcast, consider the technical side.
    Local broadcasts are exactly that; transmissions from a local tower with maybe a 50 mile range. Each tower can transmit a unique signal targeted at it's locale.
    Satellite radio signals are transmitted from geostationary satellites (XM has 2, Sirius has 3), each with a reception area over 2000 miles across. Yes, it is possible to have a single satellite broadcast different signals focused on different areas within its view, but it's not easy. You might be able to shoot separate signals on the same channel to Virginia and New York, but you won't be able to separate New York from New Jersey. Even with separate 'lobes' focused on different areas, you then have interference patterns at the boundary which must be dealt with somehow.
    Provided XM and Sirius have the bandwidth available, it is probably much easier for them to consume a few extra channels to broadcals a few 'regional' channels (maybe New York, Chicago, Dallas, LA) to everyone.
    The alternative is for a button on my XM faceplate which tunes in my favorite local FM station.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 17 Mar 2004 @ 8:32am

      Re: Point sources

      The idea in the article is to do mostly national programming but to use the on-the ground repeaters to put in local news/weather/traffic at pre-appointed bits. Sort of the way the big radio stations do it anyway.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2004 @ 9:13am

    No Subject Given

    I wonder if it would be possible to rebroadcast college radio on Sirius or XM. I would be very interested in getting college stations from around the country in a higher quality than streaming. I mean local news is great, but what I really want is to listen to local music from around the country when I'm in my car.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2004 @ 12:41pm

      Skip this and... Re: No Subject Given me when I can receive WI-FI audio streams in my car from places like ShoutCast instead. It's fantastic: it's basically a place where a lot of fans put together their own radio stations, wonderful for genre music that I enjoy. (Obviously there's some larger businesses there, too. But the technology is quite simple.)

      Anyway, I'm sure satellite would have a better overall signal, but WI-FI access would be the cheaper, more democratic way to approach it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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