As lobbying over the conditions of the merger between the Sirius and XM satellite radio networks entered the home stretch, iBiquity Corporation and the National Association of Broadcasters requested that the Federal Communications Commission mandate all future satellite radio receivers to be interoperable with terrestrial digital AM and FM broadcasts.
This was a move by HD Radio‘s proponents to try and get something for nothing. XM and Sirius both subsidized the adoption of satellite radio receivers, especially in vehicles, by making the reception technology freely available and offering special deals to new subscribers (such as free service for a year or more, especially for folks who bought new cars and trucks with a satellite radio receiver as an option). In contrast, iBiquity Corporation wants those who make and market HD radio to pay it a cut from every HD receiver sold – effectively asking auto companies to partially pay the way for HD’s adoption. This is a proposal that nearly all have resisted. Continue reading “Sirius/XM Merger Sidebar”
After a week-long, non-transparent deliberation, the Federal Communications Commission has reportedly signed off on the merger of the XM and Sirius satellite radio networks.
Many of the tea leaf-readers did not correctly forecast the outcome: most expected at least one Democratic Commissioner, Jonathan Adelstein, would vote for the merger, provided there were certain public interest obligations on the new, singular satellite broadcast entity. These would have included requirements such as a percentage of total satellite radio capacity be devoted to non-commercial, possibly public-access channels, and that the new company provide tiers of service that do not gouge existing and future subscribers. Some of these conditions will apply to the merged company, but the Commissioners’ votes themselves ultimately split along party lines. Continue reading “XM/Sirius Merger Hinged on Piracy Compliance”
Last month, a consultant engineer hired by the National Association of Broadcasters filed comments with the FCC in opposition to the proposed merger of the Sirius and XM satellite radio networks. These comments stressed the unique transmission and reception infrastructure of each satellite system and pronounced them inherently incompatible. The consultant, Dennis Wallace, asserts (among other things) that the variation in the orbital paths of XM and Sirius satellites, combined with a host of differences involving how the networks encode and compress their digital signals for broadcast, makes each company’s distribution infrastructure nearly impossible to consolidate without “significant disruption” to satellite radio service more generally.
This assertion is belied by two fundamental facts. The first is that XM and Sirius do not serve their subscribers primarily via satellite; instead they use a network of ground-based repeater-transmitters. In most cases, XM/Sirius listeners are not listening to signals directly from space, but instead to a signal bounced from the ground to space and back down again, then rebroadcast from gear bolted to some rented space on a cell phone tower nearby. It doesn’t matter what the difference in XM and Sirius satellites’ orbital paths are – so long as one satellite can “see” the United States (and XM’s constellation is in geostationary orbit), the repeaters will be served, and hence the listeners. Continue reading “Good Cop/Bad Cop: The NAB and Satellite Radio”
Unlike earlier this year, when XM and Sirius admitted to selling souped-up in-car transceivers that operated beyond acceptable FCC power levels, XM Satellite Radio now reports that its terrestrial-based network of repeater-transmitters – designed to bolster its space-based coverage pattern, especially in urban areas – has not only been operating at excessive power, but on unauthorized frequencies. Continue reading “Satellite Radio Network is Partially Pirate”
Sirius Satellite Radio also filed a document with the SEC this week with regard to overpowered satellite-to-FM transceivers and its role in developing and marketing them. Check this:
[C]ertain Sirius personnel requested manufacturers to produce Sirius radios that were not consistent with the FCC’s rules. As a result of this review, we are taking significant steps to ensure that this situation does not happen again…. Continue reading “Sirius Confesses to Power-Jacking Transceivers”
So it would appear that various models of mobile satellite radio receivers are indeed little pirate stations that can intermittently and over short ranges jam other FM radio stations as their owner/listeners drive around. A Securities and Exchange Commission filing made by XM this week discloses that XM and at least one receiver manufacturer have been contacted by the FCC about bringing certain models of mobile satellite receiver “into compliance” with “FCC emission standards.”
Aftermarket, add-on mobile receivers contain small FM transmitters that take the satellite signal and relay it to a car stereo tuned to a certain FM frequency. Similar kits are available to allow people to listen to other audio devices on the road. The National Association of Broadcasters says some models of these transceivers contain FM transmitters that are too powerful, and thus technically require licenses to operate. Interestingly, the NAB report suggests some of these devices may also interfere with the reception of digital “HD” radio signals, since these, in the words of its report, occupy
“vacant” adjacent channels, it is likely that these are the exact channels a user would choose upon which to operate one of these devices. To the user, the “noise” like HD Radio carrier appears to be a vacant channel. However, with the wide modulation capability and strong signal levels emitted by these devices, it is likely that significant interference to the much lower power HD Radio signals would be caused. Continue reading “XM, Sirius Pull Pirate Transceivers”
The most interesting tidbit of information to be found in the pending FM translator petition is not even about the proposal itself. It comes from the owner of a translator station in New Jersey which rebroadcasts an in-state gospel-caster. According to these comments, the “capture and substitution” of the FM translator station’s regular programming with Howard Stern’s uncensored Sirius radio show is a “daily occurrence.” One day Howard’s broadcast overrode the gospel music uninterrupted “for over twenty minutes.” Continue reading “Translator Hijack Involves Howard Stern Show”
Ah, the exquisite irony of indecency fine-money levied against the “old” Howard Stern radio program paying the wages of FCC field agents as they investigate acts of unlicensed broadcasting involving relays of Stern’s “new” show. Sirius has indeed petitioned the FCC to investigate the pirate rebroadcasters. The complaint reportedly only references the stations in New York and New Jersey, however, not those in the Midwest.
Patrick Reilly, Sirius flack, says: “Given the quality of Howard’s show, listening to it on a pirate radio is no way to listen to it.” I’d say the format fits the forum just fine, and I’m kind of surprised Stern’s not at least leaving the underdog alone here. I guess $500 million will do that to you.
Listener reports from Minneapolis/St. Paul and Duluth, Minnesota suggest microradio stations there are simulcasting Howard Stern’s new radio show on the Sirius satellite network. Last week unlicensed outlets in New York and New Jersey broadcast highlights from Stern’s first week on Sirius.
Is there a meme in play here? Continue reading “Stern Pirates Proliferate”
This week Howard Stern‘s empire evolved to a new level when he debuted his new program on the Sirius satellite radio network. Howard’s departure from the realm of terrestrial broadcasting caused much consternation. Fear not, for pirate radio is keeping Stern alive on the airwaves: the New York Daily News reports that two pirate stations aired uncensored segments of “Howard 100” on FM frequencies in Brooklyn, New York and the Newark/Secaucus, New Jersey area.
Several pirates operate throughout the NYC metroplex; the article quotes a commercial station‘s program director on the subject: “You’d like to catch them, but it’s like finding a needle in a haystack. Fortunately, they come and go.” Continue reading “Pirates Rebroadcast Howard Stern in NY, NJ”