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NPR Finds XM's Achilles Heel

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the operators-are-standing-by dept.

330

PreacherTom writes "In the ongoing radio wars, one only has to listen to 20 seconds of Howard Stern's language to know that the lack of regulation gives satellite radio a distinct advantage. Of all the challengers, it seems that NPR has finally found a weakness in XM, which supplements its satellite coverage with earth-bound transmitters. A recent test found that 19 of these transmitters were unlicensed and another 221 exceeded their authorized power level, giving NPR an opening to press with an apparently sympathetic FCC. It certainly doesn't help that XM's own filings support their case."

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330 comments

A war over antiquated technology? (3, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674529)

XM is cool -- I tried it out for a few months and actually found myself listening to the radio for the first time in a long time. That ended when the lady of the house gave me her old iPod, which is now my primary listening device. I download a ton of independent music, go to a lot of shows, and also produce a few bands so I get demos all the time. A few podcasts make their way to the little device, and I'm happier for it. I'm 32, but it seems that most teenagers don't even know what a radio is, except for 88.7 FM or whatever station their FM transmitter for their iPod uses.

I think radio technology is old and dated, and I can't really see a future for it. I've been calling for the FCC to deregulate (or lessen regulations) on the old analog TV channels -- and it looks like others have too because the FCC is doing just that. Setting up large chunks of bandwidth for broadcasting is ridiculous, it would be like setting up large chunks of the Internet for one-way non-interactive websites. The future is about a la carte selections, narrowcasting, custom playlists, whatever. The future is not massive 50,000 watt transmitters hitting the numb masses, but about individuals selecting what they want.

I think the future is either WiFi-based communications, or EDGE-network communications. I already stream my music from my home server to my PDA via EDGE (HP PDA with Bluetooth dialup to my cell phone). It works great and I have instant access to gigs of music (and limited video).

I realize that I am in the minority here, but everyone who checks out my system loves it and asks how they can do it. For now, they can't do it easily, but I don't expect that to last as more cell phone companies embrace wireless access for the web. For now it will stay proprietary (t-zones, vCast, etc), but give it time and as more bandwidth is deregulated, more people will jump on the narrowcast system. I even download a podcast of a few bands that put an hour playlist together, and it is perfect for my drive. Interactive real-time broadcasts aren't that interesting to me.

The short future will be both local and satellite radio stations bashing each other over legal infractions, and that's fine -- let them spend their money on lawyers and lobbying Congress for more power over the airwaves. That future is only good for a little while, though. Right now people love the web over TV because they demand what they want, and someone supplies it RIGHT NOW. As the TV becomes more copyprotected, more people will demand more of the web, and suppliers will meet their needs.

As wireless connectivity reaches more of the masses, and becomes easier to use, and becomes faster, the days of broadcasting (TV, radio, newspaper, etc) will fall away, left as a memory to what the previous generation did. How antiquated. How cute.

Sidenote: Funny how radio can not compete in the same way as XM because of the FCC. The FCC was created to support big radio conglomerates and keep out little competitors. They're still using the FCC to keep their monopoly, without realizing they're leaking customers like a sieve.

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (3, Insightful)

jglen490 (718849) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674753)

I have no problem with XM and Sirius doing what they do in terms of programming. But just as it is a subscriber's right to accept XM and/or Sirius service, it is other people's rights to not have their listening choices interfered with. The point of the article, and this discussion, is not about filth, trash, or the ears of the beholder, it is about deliberately interfering with signal already granted to surfaced-based broadcast media. It may very well be that the future is completely with satellite services, but until then the satellite servce companies DO NOT have a right to interfere with someone else's signal. So let's not redirect off the subject.

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (1)

nolife (233813) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675733)

I see nothing in the article that actually supports any claims of actual signal interference. Maybe that was not the real intent of the article but based on the author claiming interference and disruptions, something technical should have been mentioned. The only interference I see XM and Sirius causing is with the business model of the companies that NAB represents. NAB's goal seems to be to restrict the satellite broadcasters anyway they can to gain their own edge or to prevent further acceptance of satellite providers. The complaining about Howard Sterm also being simulcast via web pretty much shows that motivation.

My experience in relation to the topic..
I have a SIRIUS Sportster(TM) Replay (SP-TK2) radio [sirius.com] and use its built in FM modulator. IMHO, it is pretty powerful and more so then my friends that has a different model. I can pick up its FM signal for at least 100ft and probably 200ft away in some environments. If I set the modulator to a local "in use" frequency, the two duke it out but normally the official radio station wins. In another car 10 ft away does not seem to get any interference from the Sirius radio (I tried this in my own driveway). Now the point is, who the hell is going to actually have the Sirius tuned to a populated frequency? That does not make sense. There is not some conspiracy going where all satellite users are trying to disrupt the local NPR frequency. Being from the DC area, there is not much choice of free stations to choose from though and I've heard other users iPods over my Sirius before at red lights. At least the Sirius radio I have allows you to choose ANY frequency in the FM band and not just a few selections down at the lower end like some of the portable modulators.

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (2, Interesting)

planetmn (724378) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675791)

Now the point is, who the hell is going to actually have the Sirius tuned to a populated frequency?

The people I've found waiting near me at a traffic light when my radio goes from playing NPR to a garbled mix of NPR, static and whatever crap that person is listening to.

It's not a matter of could it happen, it's a matter of it does happen. There have been numerous complaints to local station operators about the material that people are hearing when tuned to their station. The material is not coming from the station, but rather from nearby FM modulators.

Even the manufacturers of the FM modulators have admitted that they exceed the power levels and that it is a problem. They just don't care.

-dave

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (2, Interesting)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674773)

I think the future is either WiFi-based communications, or EDGE-network communications. I already stream my music from my home server to my PDA via EDGE (HP PDA with Bluetooth dialup to my cell phone). It works great and I have instant access to gigs of music (and limited video).

I realize that I am in the minority here, but everyone who checks out my system loves it and asks how they can do it.

I don't want to know how you do it, that seems trivial. I want to know how you afford it.

Around here GPRS/EDGE data costs $60 for a measly 25 MB. That'd be good for about what, 30 songs at 56kbps maybe?

Wouldn't last me one commute.

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674955)

I don't want to know how you do it, that seems trivial. I want to know how you afford it. Around here GPRS/EDGE data costs $60 for a measly 25 MB. That'd be good for about what, 30 songs at 56kbps maybe?

Where are you living? Who is your carrier? I get unlimited data with Verizon for something like $50 a month.

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (1)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675029)

T-mobile USA

Unlimited EDGE data for $19.99 a month.

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675181)

Negative. It's now $30 and comes with Wi-Fi hotspot access (At Kinky's, $tarfucks, and several other locations.) I'd rather spend the additional $20 for Verizon and get twice the speed instead, but that's just me. I can't get either one where I live now so it's a moot point.

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (3, Insightful)

NoSelf (656465) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674789)

A few points i can agree with - iPods are great for toting along your audio of choice, podcasts are great for one's ability to listen whenever one chooses, and the FCC has devolved into a monopoly-protection racket that carves up a public resource (the broadcast spectrum)for the good of increasingly few big corporations.

The FCC wasn't always that way, but in the last >3 decades it has completely abdicated responsibility for ensuring both access to the airwaves and breadth/diversity in programming.

My biggest point of disagreement is the assertion that radio is dead. Commercial radio has been effectively dead for years, i wish someone would finally pull the plug.But as someone who lives in a city with one of the oldest community-based FM stations in the country (KBOO in Portland, Oregon, second only to WBAI in NY and KPFA in SF), i'm convinced that community-based and community-oriented programming can make all the difference in a locale's sense of cohesion and identity, especially for groups underrepresented and underserved by Big Broadcast Corps (aka ClearChannel, merchant of blandness). Local news covered by local folks (unlike the local daily paper, which is owned by Gannett), and a full spectrum of music programming done by amateurs in the best sense of the word - lovers of the music. Can't beat it. Public-access cable fills a similar role, but has narrower reach.

iPod-toting techsters are still in a minority - a lot of people still listen to broadcast radio.

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (1)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675745)

Radio as a distribution system may be on its way out, but I think the content has a lot of potential. I've been listening to a lot of NPR either as podcasts or streaming audio, for instance, and sometimes the BBC. The question is how to distribute it. Satellite definitely has its advantages, but you could also incorporate wireless capability into an iPod and allow it to download radio shows as podcasts or to access radio as streaming audio.

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (1)

olyar (591892) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674909)

I think radio technology is old and dated, and I can't really see a future for it. AM Talk Radio is a huge, thriving business, and one that can't be easily supplanted by podcasts since it involves real-time interaction...

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674911)

WiFi-based communications, or EDGE-network communications.

Both of which only work because there are radio frequencies assigned to them. Sure, it would be nice if everyone could do what they want and be trusted to not fuck it up for everyone else, but I think such an arrangement would last for about 30 seconds, and then the CEO of some wireless access company would realize that he can make a shitload of money by flooding the airspace with noise on the frequencies most often used by their competitors (like the omnipresent "linksys"). I know you've made power projections and how much it would cost to do that, but you don't have to jam the signal completely, just make existing wireless technology slow and unreliable by setting up access-point like devices designed to listen for "enemy" access points and send signals to desynchronize connections, while selling your "reliable" service and "advanced" networking gear at a premium. Of course, it would devolve into a war where nobody wins, but at least we'd finally find out whether RF signals strong enough to melt chocolate bars cause cancer or not.

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (1)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674921)

If 'radio is dead' where are you going to get
  1. Good drama
  2. Comedy - HHG, for example
  3. News - Ok, so you log on to bbc.co.uk but I listen to it first in the car
  4. Music that you might not otherwise listen to - catching a late night DJ who was the only thing on at the time has led me down some very interesting new directions
I love listening to the radio because it doesn't give me what I ask for; rather I get an endless supply of surprises, some of which are life enhancing.

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (2, Interesting)

seriesrover (867969) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675421)

Actually this is a very good point. I listen to BBC Radio 4 and BBC 7 (over the internet) from the US - whilst there are plenty of shows I'd like them to put on there are many that I've enjoyed that I wouldn't have done a search on.

Similiarly, terrestrial radio I pretty much only listen to in the car on the way to and from work. Whilst I enjoy the current affairs and news opinions etc. its not something I would pay for.

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674965)

That ended when the lady of the house gave me her old iPod


"The lady of the house"... I presume that would be your mother?

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675207)

Setting up large chunks of bandwidth for broadcasting is ridiculous, it would be like setting up large chunks of the Internet for one-way non-interactive websites.

Yeah, but waste like that already happened and was why IPv6 was invented. 127.0.0.1 is actually the first IP of an /8 block.

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (1)

Eric Sharkey (1717) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675351)

it seems that most teenagers don't even know what a radio is, except for 88.7 FM or whatever station their FM transmitter for their iPod uses

But this is precisely one of the points of the article. Here in New Jersey, NPR's frequecies [njn.net] are right in the range of the FM transmitters commonly used by both ipods satellite radio receivers. I can't listen to these stations half the time because I end up driving near someone completely drowning them out, and it's incredibly annoying.

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (2, Insightful)

OldeTimeGeek (725417) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675409)

Antiquated? Really? I can get both AM and FM just about everywhere in the US using a $10 Radio Shack radio. I don't have to have an expensive casting setup, don't have to worry about mobile service blind spots, don't have Wi-Fi or don't have EDGE service.

I can hear content that nobody else wants to carry because the audience is too small. I travel a lot by car, and enjoy listening to local radio stations because they are the only evidence left that not all of the US sounds like New York or California. I once listened to a Navajo radio station while on a long trip. Can I get that on XM? Right.

Radio is still the great equalizer because it is relatively inexpensive to broadcast and the listening devices can be as cheap as a couple of bucks or as expensive as thousands of dollars.

Yes, it may be eventually supplanted by newer technologies, but it is far from antiquated.

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16675689)

Sidenote: Funny how radio can not compete in the same way as XM because of the FCC. The FCC was created to support big radio conglomerates and keep out little competitors. They're still using the FCC to keep their monopoly, without realizing they're leaking customers like a sieve.

Actually, the FCC was created to manage allocation and policy with regards to our _public_ airwaves. I think they left the "corporate conspiracy" bits out of their founding charter, I could be wrong though.

Contrary to anyones belief, the airwaves are just that: public. Nobody owns them. Radio and Television stations (in fact, just about everyone else too) has to lease space on these frequencies for a limited amount of time. Why? To prevent any organization from presuming an ownership over those frequencies, and to allow other broadcasters an opportunity to get time on these frequencies as well. Also, so they can force mandates that serve the public good on broadcasters. One prime example: EAS/EBS. One awful example: Obscenity regulation.

Wether or not you subscribe to this notion, the FCC was created because it was necessary (we're not the only country with the ability to create radio waves). Over time, things have changed, some for the better, some for the worse. Sometimes, things don't change at all. Some days, it looks like an evil government apparatus.. other days, it looks more like the organization that it was supposed to be. Wow.. just like anything else in your typical government body.

I will agree with you, however. By and large, and through large amounts of lobbying and mucking about with the law, the FCC has become the organization you describe. Albeit, not directly, but generally through lack of foresight with regards to their policy and misunderstanding the needs of the public. Just don't say that is what they were created for and don't presume that all the negative things the FCC does are intentional.

Re:A war over antiquated technology? (1)

zipthink (943185) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675691)

Having lived through the mess that was Hurricane Katrina, all I can say is thank God for radio. I sure didn't see people around here tuning into the news on their i-pods. Radio was the only thing there was... period. And one station at that.

If the signal is encrypted, so what? (2, Insightful)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674555)

If the signal is encrypted, and you have to PAY to receive and decrypt the signal, so what if it is filthy language? Who cares where the signal originates?

Re:If the signal is encrypted, so what? (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674709)

Because if you RTFA, it's about people who don't want to listen to XM radio but have the signal they are listening to(such as NPR) overridden by someone who is broadcasting XM from their decoder.....it would have taken you what, 3 seconds to read the summary?

Re:If the signal is encrypted, so what? (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675125)

people who don't want to listen to XM radio but have the signal they are listening to(such as NPR) overridden by someone who is broadcasting XM from their decoder

This happens to me several times a week now. I often like to listen to WYPR, 88.1 FM (local NPR talk and news station in Baltimore) while I'm driving around. Suddenly I'll get some completely different program - ranging from Stern to oldies heavy on Sinatra.

Usually it's from another vehicle; the problem goes away as the traffic flow changes and doesn't repeat when I pass by the same spot. But there's one spot where someone apparently has a home receiver - that's where I pick up the Sinatra every time I pass by.

It was mystifying at first, but about 6 months ago WYPR had a post on their website about the problem with XM's repeaters. Unfortunately de-mystification makes it no less annoying.

Re:If the signal is encrypted, so what? (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675391)

I'm surprised at how rediculously powerful those repeaters apparently are. We had one set up along my commute and it totally blew away my NPR station for a good 5 minutes (at 35MPH admittedly) with some Latino Hip-Hop something or the other. It was also blasting across the station above and below it on the dial. That only lasted about 6 months before it just suddenly stopped though. I'm not sure if they dropped their Satellite radio service, or if the FCC got them. Actaully, I thought it was pirate radio for a long time, but an XM repeater seems to make more sense (Why would a Pirate station blast over an existing one? That's a surefire way to get caught.)

Re:If the signal is encrypted, so what? (1)

Ana10g (966013) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675469)

Wait, is the problem you are describing with the repeaters, or the XM / Sirius client devices? Both broadcast on the FM signal, one very locally (the client putting out enough juice to get to your car stereo), while the the repeaters supplement satellite coverage with additional signal strength in areas where overhead coverage cannot suffice (parking garages, between large skyscrapers, etc).

I know that my client device is way over powered. Took a road trip last summer in which we had a single XM client broadcasting with all its might, and our companions in the car behind us were able to listen to it, loud and clear, with no extra equipment.

While working in DC for the summer this year, I got fed up trying to find an open frequency on which to listen to my XM client in my car, and found out that a device is made that splices into the car's FM antenna, causing the XM receiver to not broadcast at all (all data goes through the antenna, directly into the car stereo). Now that I have it, I never get any interference from other stations or devices, and, best of all, I don't interfere with anyone else.

Re:If the signal is encrypted, so what? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674975)

The problem is that people use FM transmitters in the XM or Sirius receivers to listen on their car radios. Most of these come tuned to transmit on 88.1 Mz. I frequently hear Howard, or Opie, or some other obnoxious DJ exercizing their satellite free speech habits on MY radio interfering with NPR programming. This is causing frequent complaints to the NPR stations. The post erred in that it is not the repeaters that are the problem, it is the in-car receivers. As unlicensed transmitters they are forbidden to interfere with licensed broadcasts. XM has admitted that many of the devices do not comply, they are too powerful and transmit over too large a distance. This was accepted by XM because they wanted to avoid having their paying customers being interfered with from other stations. NPR is fighting back.

Re:If the signal is encrypted, so what? (1)

sorak (246725) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675463)

If the signal is encrypted, and you have to PAY to receive and decrypt the signal, so what if it is filthy language? Who cares where the signal originates?

The important issues as I see them are:

  • Profanity being available to children -- I was really hoping the V-chip (and similar technologies) would get rid of this crap. It's really just a smokescreen to cover the next item
  • Profanity being available to adults -- It makes some people nuts to think that, somewhere, someone is doing something they don't approve of. Maybe it's "godlessness" or "immoral", but mostly it's just a religious nut wanting to control everyone else.
  • Interference -- Sometimes highly powered transmitters bleed over onto other frequencies. My neighbor used to have an illegal CB antenna that would broadcast on every TV channel below five, including channel 3, which made VCRs and video game systems not work as well as they could have. If these transmitters are interfering with wireless networks, cell phones, television signals, or CB signals used by emergency vehicles then people have a right to complain.

First! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674559)

First!

Here's an XM Weakness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674561)

I have to pay for it and it still doesn't have anything worth listening too unless you care about sports or shock jocks.

Granted, it's not really XM's fault that 98.3% of all music created today is rehashed, overproduced, halfwit crap, but still, you can't beat an MP3 player and your own collection. When somebody starts up a radio station that lets me pick the songs I want to listen to, we'll see about it.

Think of the children (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674567)

That means a driver listening to NPR might suddenly hear a blast of obscenities from Howard Stern

What is that might "frog with wings".

NPR LABS ...found that 30% to 40% of the modulators exceeded FCC-mandated power levels

So I'll have problems listening to FM 87.8? And why is public broadcasting using public funds to research FM modulators. I don't want donate to that research.

couldn't conclusively determine whether satellite radio devices or, say, unrelated MP3 players

Ahh, evil MP3s reminiscent of that napster doom and gloom.

If there is a problem, XM and Sirus will fix it. If not, you won't get sympathy from the public because your content is censored and people want to hear "free" (as in beer or something?) broadcast. Think of the Children - FUD only works with the uneducated.

Re:Think of the children (2, Insightful)

Palshife (60519) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674667)

And why is public broadcasting using public funds to research FM modulators. I don't want donate to that research.

Government assistance only makes up a portion of NPR's funds. The rest comes from the support of its listeners and its advertisers. NPR spends that money investigating the news. That's what this is.

Shills.. (1)

msimm (580077) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675073)

NPR are shills. They produce some fine programming, but their interests are as viral as anybody elses.

Re:Shills.. (2, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675461)

Frankly, their interest here seems to be "let our listeners actually hear our content", which is pretty hard to argue against, especially when the other guy is flagrantly breaking the law.

Re:Think of the children (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674907)

What I don't understand is: those FM transmitters are essentially a stop-gap measure for the fact that most car audio players don't have an auxiliary input. They serve the same function the old cassette adapters did for people that no longer have cassette players. But for the past couple of decades, pretty much everyone has had an auxiliary audio device: cd-player, md-player, mp3-player, heck, even a cb radio.

So why aren't car-radio manufacturers just putting some good ol' RCA plugs, eighth-inch stereo mini-plugs, and/or digital audio or other inputs under a flap somewhere on the console rather than force people to destroy their audio by modulating, transmitting, and de-modulating it?

Re:Think of the children (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674993)

So why aren't car-radio manufacturers just putting some good ol' RCA plugs, eighth-inch stereo mini-plugs, and/or digital audio or other inputs under a flap somewhere on the console rather than force people to destroy their audio by modulating, transmitting, and de-modulating it?
Because the car radio manufacturers are the ones selling you the gadgets to mod/demod the signals.

Re:Think of the children (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675101)

Car dealers make extra money by selling dealer-installed options like satellite radio and CD changers. Therefore, most of the car audio systems of the last decade have auxilary inputs, but they either use proprietary connectors or are simply hidden behind a bunch of panels. Fortunately, third parties do make breakout boxes for about $70-200 US that will allow you to access these. Hopefully the iPod craze will finally get the automakers to stop hiding the jacks, just like they started offering multiple power ports (cigarette lighters) and even built-in inverters to power people's DVD players and cell phones.

Re:Think of the children (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675355)

So why aren't car-radio manufacturers just putting some good ol' RCA plugs, eighth-inch stereo mini-plugs

They are, finally, starting to do this. My new cheap Sony car stereo has a stereo mini-plug on the front; about 40% of the models I looked at at Best Buy had such an aux input.

Re:Think of the children (1)

chaoticgeek (874438) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675615)

My friend had a 1/8th inch audio jack on his old car radio. It was the best thing, but now his new car does not so he uses a FM broadcaster to have his iPod play music in his car.

Re:Think of the children (2, Informative)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675285)

What is that might "frog with wings".

I have no idea how to parse that sentance (or sentance-like string of words, anyway), but from context I'm assuming you're expressing skepticism that an NPR listener might have Stern suddenly interrupt the program they're listening to.

I can vouch for this, it happens to me about once or twice a week now. Not always Stern, sometimes it's classic rock, and there's one house I pass that's usually listening to what appears to be and all-Sinatra channel. They have some sort of repeater (like the ones people use to listen to their iPod via the radio, but much more powerful) that is set to broadcast the XM content on 88.1FM, the same channel as our local NPR station.

So I'll have problems listening to FM 87.8?

Dunno. Maybe. But I can state from my own direct experience that around here, you'll have trouble listening to 88.1.

YRO??!!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674601)

Are the editors just lazy or do they really somehow believe that XM's faulty transmitters affect my online rights?

It seems like a technical glitch to me that XM will just have to fix, and redeploy. What's the rights issue here?

Re:YRO??!!! (2, Insightful)

NevarMore (248971) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674939)

Perhaps not your rights online, but it is affecting your rights.

1. The FCC is involved. This is an agency that has some questionable pracitices and policies. Its primary purpose is to regulate the airwaves on the interest and behalf of the public. In this case the FCC can make or break a decision to give the public more choice in how it recieves its news and entertainment. This is a matter of your money (if you buy ANYTHING from the US or anything carring an FCC cert you have in some way paid taxes some of which went to the FCC) being used to control your airwaves and your choice for content delivered on those frequencies.

2. Current media oligolopy. The traditional broadcasters (ie ClearChannel) are trying to maintain their hold over the radio market. I expect this kind of behavior from such agencies but NPR, though a private organization, has traditionally worked hard for the public. I suspect that NPR is invovled here because NPR isn't being broadcast on XM/Sirius because they can't pay or won't make enough revenue for the satellite providers. I personally find that not broadcasting public radio/tv is socially irresponsible, but it is well within their rights as a private corporation.

3. NPR has an important role to play here. NPR is the friendly bully for all public interest and community radio. A lot of community/low power radio efforts can be assisted by the rules and regs that help the bigger public broadcasters like NPR and PBS. The social climate in the US is not currently favorable for public broadcasting. I would hope that in the long run people and corporations will realize that this is important and use their voices and dollars to support it. We need to put some other pressure on media rebroadcasters (cable compaines, satellite radio companies, regular broadcasters) to continue to push public interest programs and support the little guy, not because the law says they do, but because its what they ought to do.

Re:YRO??!!! (1)

twostar (675002) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675353)

NPR has two channels on Sirius and I listen to them all the time during the morning commute.

I'm really curious to see why NPR has such an issue with satellite. Finding and reporting on issues is one thing, but to file FCC complaints? That's like ABC Nightly News investigating some cable or satellite provider and instead of just reporting their findings, they file FCC/legal proceedings against the provider.

Re:YRO??!!! (3, Informative)

planetmn (724378) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675441)

Because you obviously didn't read the article. NPR is upset at the makers of satellite (and other) FM modulators. The modulators are overpowered and do not comply with FCC regulations. The manufacturers of the units have admitted this and just went on their merry way. So NPR is asking the FCC to hold these manufacturers to the regulations.

This is perfectly reasonable. Think of it this way. If Linksys sells a router with increased coverage area (because they exceed the power limits imposed by the FCC), and your neighbor buys one which causes your router to stop working, don't you think Linksys should have to comply with the law?

-dave

Re:YRO??!!! (1)

lieden (897813) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675419)

Um, NPR is broadcast on Sirius.
However, in all fairness I doubt Sirius broadcasts any sort of fundraising.
At the same time, I would imagine NPR/Sirius came to some sort of monetary agreement.

I really have to think this has more to do with XM infringing on the lower FM frequencies that are commonly used by NPR.

Re:YRO??!!! (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675427)

I suspect that NPR is invovled here because NPR isn't being broadcast on XM/Sirius because they can't pay or won't make enough revenue for the satellite providers.

NPR is involved because (for reasons I don't understand) NPR stations cluster at the low end of the dial, where this XM interference problem is occuring. I get interference with my reception of 88.1, WYPR, at least weekly now from these unlawful XM portable transceivers.

Re:YRO??!!! (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675549)

"suspect that NPR is invovled here because NPR isn't being broadcast on XM/Sirius because they can't pay or won't make enough revenue for the satellite providers."

Both Sirius [sirius.com] and XM [sirius.com] carry NPR programming. And both XM/Sirius pay NPR to carry NPR's programming. Why would NPR pay satellite companies to have their programming played? That doesn't make sense.

f'ing scum (1)

bano (410) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674607)

This breach of rules for terrestrial radio stations surely infringes on my rights online.
burn them!

Pathetic. (-1, Flamebait)

supabeast! (84658) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674623)

This is what NPR is doing with its money? They couldn't just focus on broadcasting something other than bluegrass when the news isn't on? At least now I have another reason to not feel bad for never calling in during pledge week.

Re:Pathetic. (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674713)

They couldn't just focus on broadcasting something other than bluegrass when the news isn't on?

Don't forget 50's betnik jazz...

Re:Pathetic. (3, Funny)

iroll (717924) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674765)

Yeah, pathetic that they do investigative reporting. Who listens to NPR for that? I want my "Delicious Dish."

Something tells me you didn't feel bad to begin with. So why are you listening to NPR, if they offend you so much?

Re:Pathetic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16675529)

I would hope no one listens to NPR for investigative reporting, since they're one of the most biased news sources you can get. NPR relies to a heavy extent on listener support (if they want to keep their massive federal budget, they have to appease the voters to a degree), so they HAVE to produce content that their listeners want to hear. Because of this, they long-ago entered into a group-think spiral where the only thing you'll hear on NPR is what the people who'll pay to support NPR want to hear.

All you get on NPR is left-wing propaganda. It's not worth listening to, and it's sad how much tax money gets wasted on NPR.

If you want an unbiased source, you have to go to a source where they won't lose a massive amount of money for saying something unpopular. This makes the "new media" of the Internet the logical choice - only when reporters have very little to lose by saying something unpopular will they actually say it.

Re:Pathetic. (1)

kevin_conaway (585204) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674839)

They couldn't just focus on broadcasting something other than bluegrass when the news isn't on? At least now I have another reason to not feel bad for never calling in during pledge week.

Hey! I donated a good chunk of money this time around because of the bluegrass music they play. My local station (WAMU) plays bluegrass all day Sunday and I absolutely love it.

Re:Pathetic. (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675087)

I like some bluegrass, but I wish WAMU would break it up a bit with some thing else. I do like the old time radio programs on Sunday evening (or perhaps it's just the end of the twanging).

Re:Pathetic. (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675577)

As someone who isn't a big fan of Bluegrass, Sunday is pretty much dead to me with WAMU. I do like the Big Broadcast when I remember to tune it in though. Saturday is pretty good until the afternoon though. This American Life is just too sappy for me. The weekdays are where it's at with WAMU though, they pride themselves on their talk radio and news. Diane and Kojo both put on good shows, it's just a shame that I only catch them in the evening repeats when I can't call in and tell one of the guests why he's an idiot.

Re:Pathetic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16675775)

WAMU plays bluegrass but it's really really bad bluegrass. Meanwhile they won't put something good on like Sound and Spirit because there is no airtime left. WETA is so much better in pretty much every way. If they would dump Tavis / shorten Traditions and fit in S&S and the Thistle and Shamrock they would be pretty much the best PBS radio anywhere.

Re:Pathetic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16675141)

My local station (WAMU) plays bluegrass all day Sunday


Cool! Are you a fan of Lisa Kay Howard, by any chance?

Re:Pathetic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16675623)

Hey! I donated a good chunk of money this time around because of the bluegrass music they play.

Agreed. Nothing like a little fine mandolin and beautifully sung harmonies. Bluegrass rules.

Hardly pathetic. (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674855)

NPR is alleging that:

. . .many FM modulators, used to feed programming from portable satellite radio devices into car stereos, exceed FCC power requirements. That means a driver listening to NPR might suddenly hear a blast of obscenities from Howard Stern from a car as far as 100 feet away. NPR stations have received hundreds of complaints from listeners, says Mike Starling, chief technology officer of NPR Labs, which has studied the issue.

NPR stations tend to be located in the same end of the FM band that the FM modulators operate in, so you can see why they would feel put out: Satellite radio is stealing their listeners and kicking them in the shins. Siphoning off listeners is just business, but keying on the same stations (even if it's not intentional) is worth complaining about.

You can't blame someone for complaining about another party unjustly interfering with their business. You can't "just focus on broadcasting" if you're being jammed.

I want my frequencies. (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674669)

I'd sure like to see the FCC release a bunch of these frequencies back to the public. Didn't we already pay for them? Also, I am definately sure that most licensed broadcasters bend the rules a little, whether it is to up the signal power, or even to release noise into nearby bands. How can we get the FCC to audit their licensees? Are we not complaining loud enough?

Re:I want my frequencies. (1, Flamebait)

porkface (562081) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674705)

"How can we get the FCC to audit their licensees?"

By telling them to stop wasting so much energy trying to be the morality police, so they can get back to what they were chartered to do.

Google can buy NRP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674697)

(really, why now?)

interesting (1)

chasingporsches (659844) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674717)

well i wanted XM until i found out they didn't have NPR, and so i'd have to go to Sirius instead. but this makes me guess that there's some bad tension between XM and NPR, obviously... maybe XM wouldn't allow NPR to broadcast on their service?

Re:interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674821)

NPR owns Sirius

Sattelite Radio (1)

Samlind1 (667119) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674731)

I use Sirius all the time, and I can always find something worth listening to. I listen to FIND new things/people/groups to listen to, I don't have enough storage to tote all the MP3's I might want around, and I carry 10 DVD's worth of stuff now.

That, and finding DJ Tiesto at 3am in the middle of Alabama lets me make to the hotel in one piece.

It's just better radio. For people who spend too much time in the car, it's a bargain.

IMHO (1)

devenions-gris (1021235) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674745)

Radio is the single worst form of distribution of modern times. Between mouthy DJs, repetitive and annoying advertisement and frankly awful music, dragged out from some record label's production lines, I can't stand the radio. Personal opinion of course. All of the functions radio used to occupy have been replaced by better media. The music's always the latest offering from old news and it's repetitive. Same songs all the time. Digital radio is hardly any better. I prefer to just rip my mates' CD collections. A couple of mp3 discs and I'm happy for hours. If I really like an album I'll go out and buy it. I don't want to hear normal releases because they're never representative of the whole album. One or two singles playing over and over is enough to put me off the band/DJ forever! I used to like The Offspring, until Pretty Fly was overplayed.

Re:IMHO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16675009)

I completely agree with your opinion, when it comes to mainstream, commercial radio. ClearChannel is a pox on our collective eardrums.

However, I would respectfully suggest that there are a number of public and independent radio stations that do not fit the formula that you have laid out, and can really push the bounds of typical, terrestrial radio.

Three that come to mind: WERS (88.9) in Boston (Emerson College); WPKN (89.5) in Bridgeport, CT; and WXPN (88.5) in Philly. I think they all have web feeds too, so check 'em out.

Mod Parent Up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16675217)

And add Album 88 (88.5 in Atlanta - Georgia State) and WAMU 88.5 (News and Public Affairs in DC) to the list of stations that don't fit the mold.

Re:IMHO (1)

tylernt (581794) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675383)

Digital radio is hardly any better.
Indeed. I had a chance to listen to Sirius for a few hours. I thought the point of satellite radio was uninterrupted music, right? Well, the stupid DJs came on after every other song and babbled away just to listen to the sound of their own voice. I found myself frequently changing stations to get away from the stupid DJs and get back to some music.

If I have to be a button-pusher, I might as well listen to terrestrial FM.

Re:IMHO (1)

TheLongshot (919014) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675643)

XM is a lot better about this. The DJ chatter isn't nearly as bad, and the playlists are a lot deeper than Sirius on most of their stations.


You are always going to get bumpers and some DJ chatter, but it is certainly better than FM.

Re:IMHO (1)

johnlcallaway (165670) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675641)

And don't forget about NPRs nasty habit of drowning us for a week 'please send us money' pleas while they finally play the good stuff that you won't hear again until next year.

Why the anti-NPR slant? (3, Interesting)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674747)

The article says that NPR is filing a complaint with the FCC due to non-compliance by satellite radio broadcasters and devices. That's a perfectly reasonably thing to do. But both the article and Slashot summary imply that NPR has an axe to grind against Satellite radio. Is there some NPR -vs- satellite radio thing going on that I don't know about? It seems like that is pre-requisite knowledge for understanding this article.

Re:Why the anti-NPR slant? (3, Informative)

jonnythan (79727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674847)

No. NPR has two stations on Sirius.

Read the article for NPR's actual complaints. The summary is misleading. The article is a conglomeration of actions from the National Association of Broadcasters as well as NPR.

Re:Why the anti-NPR slant? (2, Informative)

renderdude (763594) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675077)

The problem is that the transmitters have "excessive" power, and thereby leak into nearby receivers. Why NPR is involved is that most of the satellite to FM transmitters are, by default, tuned to the low-end of the radio spectrum, which by chance is where most NPR stations are located.

NPR has received a significant number of complaints regarding the broadcasting of "filthy language" on their stations, without the complainers realizing that it was from another vehicle.

As an FYI, I have a 20+ mile commute through a semi-rural part of Maryland on lightly congested roads, and my NPR signal gets interrupted by satellite and iPod transmitters a minimum of 5-6 times, sometimes for 5 seconds as a car passes in the other direction, or the entire trip if it's the car behind me.

The amusing part of this is connecting people to their music, e.g., the burly construction worker listening to broadway musicals, or the soccer mom in her minivan listening to hard-core rap.

Re:Why the anti-NPR slant? (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675573)

which by chance is where most NPR stations are located.

Not by chance. For whatever reason that's the cheap end of the dial - anything lower than 92.5 is less valued by big-name broadcasting companies. I thought it had to do with allowed broadcast power at those frequencies, but I can't find anything to back up that claim.

Sue 'em if you can't compete! (0, Flamebait)

Syncerus (213609) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674763)

It wasn't enough that they bored us to death with their crappy programming. Of course, you could never actually listen to their crappy programming, since it was all commercials, all the time. And you could never get the IQ85 disk jockies to shut up, either.

So, we voted with our wallets, and chose to pay for something decent instead of shoveling down the free crap they offered us. Now, they're mad, cause we don't want what their peddling. So what do they do when they're beaten in the market place? Sue, of course!

Unreal. Who bothers to listen to broadcast radio anymore? It's unlistenable.

Re:Sue 'em if you can't compete! (1)

thefirelane (586885) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674963)

Firstly, NPR has some amazing stuff. I dare you to listen to the most recent halloween episode of this [thislife.org] .

Secondly, if a competitor is violating the law, what is wrong with suing? Were you equally as angry at competitors who went after MS for anti-trust allegations (which turned out to be true).

Re:Sue 'em if you can't compete! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16675371)

Are you not familiar with NPR? There are no commercials, per
se. There are underwriters and a few product pitches here and
there, but nothing like we know them in conventional "commercial"
radio.

Also, people have hardly voted with their wallet. Traditional
radio listenership hasn't really dropped off in twenty or so
years. Sirius and XM together average about twelve-million
subscribers, while NPR pulls in twenty-million listeners per
week.

Re:Sue 'em if you can't compete! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16675377)

I don't know what you're talking about. NPR is good, informative radio. They don't have several minutes of commercials like other music radio stations. They have interesting programming.

I think you're mistaking NPR with other loud mouth DJ music stations that play pop songs. There's nothing wrong with NPR programming. I agreed that with the current technology, maybe the radio bandwidth could be chopped up for digital broadcasts, kind of like HDTV. But there's nothing wrong with the NPR programming, it's only a transmission issue.

NPR is supported by listeners who like the programming - voluntary contributions. The broadcast is available to all, it's not encrypted. The fact that it's still around speaks to the quality of their programming.

The article isn't a "radio stations" against satellite radio. It's just NPR filing a complaint about FCC regulations. The other radio that play pop music aren't educated enough to such things.

So what (1)

jeremyclark13 (999183) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674775)

if XM uses a few frequncies that they shouldn't and the ones that they should the boost the power I don't see any harm in that
*Twitch* this brought to you by Mountain Dew *Twitch*
I mean really come on.

Re:So what (1)

SScorpio (595836) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675069)

Because I hate listening to your Howard Stern while on my drive to work because your transmitter is illegally overpowering mine while I'm trying to listen to my MP3 player. This is the whole purpose of FCC licensing to prevent this type of thing from happening.

Re:So what (1)

Kankraka (936176) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675763)

What about people like me? I'm an XM user (and Howard Stern is on Sirius, not XM) and I have my kit hooked directly to the deck in my car. I don't use an FM transmitter for anything. The sound quality is crap compared to CD or a direct connection, it's really prone to getting interference (as you've experienced it sounds like) and it's tedious to have all those wires running all over your car. Why should people who hook their stuff up properly do they DON'T interfere with other peoples business end up getting reamed because of everyone else? And I think TFA was referring to the ground based XM signal repeaters. Those only broadcast on frequencies the satellite radios can receive/decode and pose no threat to you listening to your MP3 player.

The real color of NPR (1)

Orig_Club_Soda (983823) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674867)

So many of my hippie friends think NPR is the "anti government" radio but this act by NPR to try to bring XM down in interest of their (NPR's) profit just demonstrates that NPR is as evil as the rest of corporate radio and will jump into bed with government to reduce our freedoms.

Re:The real color of NPR (1)

Aqua_boy17 (962670) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675299)

Not sure if the above is meant as a troll, but last time I checked, NPR is a not-for-profit. ...checking... Yep. From Wikipedia: "National Public Radio (NPR) is an independent, private, non-profit membership organization of public radio stations in the United States". So, I'd say your profit argument is off-base. And I think the point of TFA is that XM is violating FCC regulations. Does it really matter if NPR is the one that brought this to light?

Re:The real color of NPR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16675587)

You sir are a fucking moron, just as bad as your hippie friends. How is NPR taking away freedoms. READ the article of is that the hippie jackass thing to do these days. Not get the facts and then just come to assumptions with stupid baseless posts. You must be the same kind of guy who hates (Insert Politician here) but cannot come up with any specific reason you hate him nor could come up with any positive solution. Did you write term papers too and cite yourself 120 times?

Ass, Your. Being a complete douche. New York: Slashdot Publishing, 2005, pp. 50-55.

- Wolf Bearclaw

Re:The real color of NPR (1)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675595)

Yeah, who cares that XM/Sirius may be breaking the law! NPR is evil (because you, some random shit on slashdot, says so!), so they shouldn't be able to stop the law-breakers.

Down with short-range FM tranmitters! (1)

jaypaulw (889877) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675003)

Of course it's not just satellite radio it's ipods too. Since NPR stations are about the only thing worth listening to locally (and WFMU is on 91.1 too, for NY/NJ people) it's frustrating having the crap that people listen to on their ipods interrupt me.

NPR ain't bad. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16675481)

Everyone seems to be complaining about the quality of NPR. Honestly, I don't listen to the radio much since I got my iPods, but when I do, it's ALWAYS NPR. It's good stuff. And this is coming from someone who's 16 years old.

A few things. (1)

WPIDalamar (122110) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675557)

Howard Stern = Sirius satellite radio, not XM. It's odd the summary above mentions content on one network, but the name of the other network.

The FCC was originally designed to regulate the radio waves... the transmission powers, the location of transmitters, ensuring different users didn't interfere with each other. That's the bulk of the complaints mentioned in the article.

The FCC has evolved into the decency police regulating what content can and can not be heard on free mediums. Those aren't the type of complaints currently being investigated because they have no authority over the satellite for-pay content.

The terrestrial radio business wants the FCC to regulate content on pay radio because pay-radio is currently better than free radio. They know that. They don't want to have to compete with the satellite guys who aren't under the same content restrictions as they are. So they're doing everything in their power to convince the FCC to try and regulate satellite content.

Things they're saying to achieve that:
1) Sirius gave a 2-day free preview over the internet. Therefore they're free and should be regulated! Obvious BS since the FCC doesn't regulate content on the internet.
2) The FM transmitters in cars that receive the radio signal and broadcast it to the car's radio are too powerful and other people can hear those transmissions. ... Maybe BS, maybe not. It's probably more of a case that some of the transmitters are more powerful than licensed and should be fixed.

I've had both. Sirius rocks. XM is decent. They're both better than normal radio.

NPR and FM transmitters (1)

Speare (84249) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675569)

I used to travel on the Mass Pike (I-90) highway on a regular basis, and would usually try to listen to the NPR stations on each ride. I say "try to listen" because every few minutes, the program would get cut by some nearby car using an FM loop to listen to their iPod or satellite radio units. It seems many of the simple FM loop devices use several of the common low-band channel spots which NPR stations prefer. The private unlicensed FM loopbacks would override the NPR licensed FM for a half mile, which means six-second bursts for opposing traffic, or 45-second periods of aggravation if I'm tracking with the FM-polluting idiot.

Someone suggested counter-warfare: I override THEIR FM with an even stronger burst that explains the problem. I don't feel that fighting fire with fire is going to help here.

NPRs complaint (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 7 years ago | (#16675811)

NPRs complaint about the FM modulators has little to do with XM or Sirius; neither company makes nor operates the modulators, and I'm sure any that they sell have FCC approval. So if NPR has a problem with the modulators, it's either with people using unapproved or modified ones (seems unlikely), that the FCC hasn't been doing their jobs testing them (slightly more likely), that the manufacturing tolerances are terrible (much more likely), or that NPRs testing methodology of measuring unknown devices an unknown distance away in traffic isn't what you'd call rigorous (ding ding ding ding).
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