Could radio kill the
That’s the question
lawmakers in Washington are asking with a bill before the House of
Representatives that would limit satellite radio services’ ability to
rebroadcast localized content to specific parts of the country.
Under the bill,
HR998, sponsored by Rep. Chip Pickering, R-MS, and Gene Green, D-TX, the two
satellite radio service providers – XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite
Radio – would not be able to deliver local content to specific areas of the
The bill is
currently before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.
A similar bill was introduced last year but never made it to a vote.
When satellite radio
was first approved by the FCC in 1997, it was agreed that the new
service would only offer national content that would not affect local
broadcasting’s coverage or advertising revenue, citing the fact that local news
and weather provided a vital service to communities, particularly in emergency
However, the two providers do offer local news and weather
content. XM, for example, offers 21 of its 120-plus channels, each of which
covers the news and weather for a major metropolitan area. But David Butler,
manager of corporate communications for XM, said this type of operation still
complies with FCC regulations because the stations are broadcast nationwide,
not just to the community they cover.
“The bill, at best,
is unnecessary, and at worst, would attempt to limit XM’s ability to provide
traffic information to drivers. The stated purpose of the bill is to prevent XM
from broadcasting specific content to specific cities. But that has been the
case since the beginning of satellite radio. XM broadcasts all of its content
nationwide, and does not beam exclusive content to an exclusive city,” Butler
said. “This bill suggests that XM is somehow bending the rules, and that is
Butler said that
since the coverage is nationwide and does not target a specific market, it is
not only legal, but meets a nationwide safety and traffic information need that
broadcast radio cannot match.
comprehensive, 24-hour coverage that AM and FM do not provide,” Butler said.