Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

NPR Finds XM's Achilles Heel 330

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the operators-are-standing-by dept.
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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NPR Finds XM's Achilles Heel

Comments Filter:
  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @12:53PM (#16674529) Homepage Journal
    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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jglen490 (718849)
      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 serv
      • by nolife (233813)
        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
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by planetmn (724378)
          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 f
          • by Ironsides (739422)
            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.

            In whice case the FM modulator manufacturers are in violation of FCC compliance and can be fined big bucks. This isn't the fault of whoever made the program being broadcast (from IPOD, Cassetes or Satelite), just whoever made the modulator. If NPR wants to do something, they should figure out who's breaking the FCC rules and file claims against them. It'd go a lot
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Qzukk (229616)
          who the hell is going to actually have the Sirius tuned to a populated frequency?

          People who don't give a shit, those who are just assholes, and people who have no clue. The world is full of all three. I frequently run into people broadcasting over the station I like listening to at the upper end of the spectrum at stoplights on the way to work (maybe all the same person, my schedule is pretty regular), perhaps they had a device that let them pick any frequency so they set it to the one that they usually l
        • I've got a solution to propose: why doesn't the FCC just designate a "national ultra-low-power frequency"? It seems like we need one; everyone has their iPods and XM Radios and other things that they want to play into their car stereo, and it's a real PITA to find an open channel. Plus, if you drive more than 50 miles, you have to retune it, because the "open frequency" in NYC is in use in Philly.

          We need to take a single, or maybe a handful, of FM frequencies (probably at the low end of the band) and design
        • by llefler (184847)
          Now the point is, who the hell is going to actually have the Sirius tuned to a populated frequency?

          I used to have XM and when I travelled I had to change it's frequency from time to time. For example, frequencies that are clear in KC are in use in Tulsa. If my XM transmitter had been strong enough to over power the local station, I probably wouldn't have noticed and could have caused problems for cars nearby.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by brunes69 (86786)

      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/EDG

      • by dave562 (969951)
        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.

        • by ivan256 (17499)
          Unlimited with the caveat that if they noticed you streaming continuously without doing it from their pay-per-play vCast network they would terminate your contract in a second.
      • T-mobile USA

        Unlimited EDGE data for $19.99 a month.
        • by drinkypoo (153816)
          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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NoSelf (656465)
      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

      • 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.
      • Local news covered by local folks (unlike the local daily paper, which is owned by Gannett), [...]

        It's funny that you mention that. When modern-ish radio was first becoming commercialized, the belief was that programming had to be "local local local!" in order to generate any viewership - that radio had to talk about the most local minutinae in order to draw attention.

        The idea of nationally syndicated programming, music, etc. that left the "local local local!" paradigm was considered a revolution of s

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by MaggieL (10193)
          When modern-ish radio was first becoming commercialized, the belief was that programming had to be "local local local!" in order to generate any viewership...

          You'd think to generate any viewership it would have to be "television television television".
    • 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: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by seriesrover (867969)
        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.
      • by dthree (458263)
        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.
        This is exactly what I like about satellite radio. It has been a long time since am/fm radio has done this for me and that includes commercial and non-commercial radio.
    • by Ant P. (974313)
      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.
    • 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.
      • It as much the fault of the users who have their XM units set to the NPR Freqs. The frequency is manually set by the user, and newer units can cover more of the band than older ones. Of course in some areas(OKC) NPR is on 3 different college stations so it easy to accidentally step on one.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OldeTimeGeek (725417)
      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 onc

      • It's not cheap to broadcast, unless you don't care about being heard off your own property. Between FCC fees and the other hassles of actually getting license to broadcast (they, no lie, make you survey your proposed broadcast area and give them elevation maps, etc), and the cost of amplifiers, space on a tower (or, god forbid, buying a tower), then a broadcast setup, and an actual music library (and the fricking RIAA makes you pay fees to broadcast their stuff), you're talking an expensive hobby.

        Of course
    • Why do I NOT listen to XM/mp3s...

      -There's no 'local news' (sports, traffic, concerts, etc..) on XM/Sirius/mp3.
      -Broadcast radio already has a library bigger than what I can download.
      -Broadcast radio can introduce me to new songs, with satellite the channels are too 'narrowly focused' and mp3s I have to find the new music myself.

      -My car, living room stereo, alarm clock, all use MINIMAL power to play the radio. I don't want to have a 2TB disk array spinning away so my alarm clock can play/stream MP3s...

      Broadc
  • by maillemaker (924053) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @12:54PM (#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?
    • 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?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @01:20PM (#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.
      • by Qzukk (229616)
        I get interruptions at stoplights on the way to work, and the station I listen to is up around the 104 end of the scale, people just assume that nobody else can hear what they're playing and don't bother to pick an unused frequency.
      • XM has already admitted defeat in this area. New radios that will be on sale at Christmas will no longer allow wireless FM sending of the signal to a car radio. All XM radios from this point forward will be hard wired to the input of the car stereo.
      • by gad_zuki! (70830)
        I've used more than my fair share of car fm transmitters and am completely blown away at how powerful these siruis/xm transmitters are. How the heck did they get past the FCC? These things will over-ride my legal transmitter from 3 or 4 car lengths away. NPR shouldnt be fighting (and paying for) this fight, the damn FCC should be doing its job. Hell, theres an open pirate radio station in Chicago that only plays Dragnet reruns. Theyve been around for months while everyone keeps writing complains to what
    • by sorak (246725)

      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 appr
    • It's when it gets rebroadcast off someones handheld unit onto the extreme upper or lower end of the common FM band, thus allowing some stupid fundie in the car next to yours to catch a few seconds of something guaranteed to offend.

      I keep mine tuned to an annoying religious station (which also happens to be only barely receivable where I live). I'm sure I've occasionally drowned out some joker, but I'm equally sure I don't give a damn.
  • 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?
  • 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?
    • by feijai (898706)
      Perhaps part of the XM-NPR anymosity stems from the fact that their respective headquarters are within walking distance of one another [google.com].
    • NPR is exclusively on Sirius [wikipedia.org]. It's NPR's fault they're not on XM.

      XM counters with an XM Public Radio channel that grabbed Bob Edwards off of Morning Edition and gave him an hour-long self-titled show. The channel fills the rest of its day with programs syndicated from individual stations that may be NPR members but aren't pushing the show through NPR, possibly using the competing PRI network.
  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @01:06PM (#16674747) Homepage
    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.
    • by jonnythan (79727) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @01:12PM (#16674847) Homepage
      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: (Score:2, Informative)

      by renderdude (763594)
      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 thr
      • 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.
    • I can't answer your question directly, but NPR is invested in the roll-out of HD Radio (aka terrestrial digital via AM/FM). In fact, many NPR stations are already broadcasting "in HD" and even using the supplementary audio channel capability. This permits more than one program to be broadcast simultaniously by a single FM radio station. Some would claim that there is a terrestrial vs satellite broadcaster battle underway - a theory which might lend some credence to your theory. However, you can easily a
  • can be found on most XM channels, but NO POLITICAL COMMERCIALS

    Takes the cake for me
  • 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
  • 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, whic

    • by Vellmont (569020)

      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.

      Actually it probbably would help. The people with these transmitters probbably have NO IDEA that they're interferring with a real radio station. If you were to do something like that you'd probbably get them to change to a different, unallocated channel. These people really have no interest in interferring with your station, they jus
  • 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 un
  • To me, the FM modulator complaint is not so important. As car-makers make satelite radios and AUX ports standard equipment the use of FM modulators will wane into insignificance. Ironically, the reason I didn't use an FM modulator in my previous car (my new ine has Sirius built-in) is that I live in a very crowded FM environment (Miami/Fort Lauderdale) and there was simply no clear space in the spectrum where FM transmissions would not interfere with the modulator signal. SO I sprang for an after-market
  • Maybe it's because I have the lowest-end XM unit, but my damn FM modulator has a hard time making a signal that can successfully get from my dashboard to my radio.
  • NAB complained about the repeaters (power levels, licensed, etc). NPR is complaining about the power levels in FM modulators used to play through car stereos.
  • There's been an ongoing feud between NPR and Edwards ever since they canned him and he took his show to XM.... As far as repeaters go, where I live I never get more than one (of 3) bars of signal strength from the satelite. I rely on the terrestial repeaters to get any signal at all. I never use the built in fm-transmitter (I have a myfi) but I don't think there is a way to turn it off either (unless it knows to when you hook up to something else). I don't know if it affects other FM channels, I doubt I
  • Howard Stern is not on XM.

    NPR has three stations on Sirius, so why are they going after them?

    The article states that many of the violations measured by NPR are probably MP3 players with FM transmitters.

    Is there anything concrete to this at all, or is this just an outdated medium trying to get the government to kill the compitition (i.e. anything that allows people to choose their own music)? The best thing about satellite radio to me is the selection I can get from it over the internet, and they do a much
  • Just in case anyone is thinking of this as a "new media" vs. "old media" story, XM is owned by the Hearst Corporation [hearstcorp.com].

    Essentially this is a fight between media giants, and as is typical of the "free market", it's a fight over the rules that define the market.

The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent. -- Sagan

Working...