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DARS hits NAB snag

By | August 29, 2001

      The influential National Association of Broadcasters is lobbying the US Government to deny requests from satellite radio outfits XM Radio and Sirius to obtain frequencies for terrestrial retransmission of their audio channels. NAB president and CEO Edward Fritts asked the Government to refuse requests from the satellite radio companies to operate terrestrial repeaters as part of their service.

      The NAB effort included a filing at the Federal Communications Commission outlining its concerns with the terrestrial repeater networks. The NAB told the FCC that the terrestrial repeaters are “a crutch for a technology that is not up to the task of providing the seamless, mobile coverage promised by proponents.”

      The digital-audio radio companies need the terrestrial repeaters to fill in gaps where satellites can’t reach, especially in urban areas, underpasses and the like. “The time for subterfuge by XM Radio and Sirius Radio is over,” Fritts said in a statement. “These companies must come clean with regulators and the American people on their true intentions for making satellite radio a viable business.”

      NAB’s documents submitted to the FCC questioned whether the satellite radio companies intend to turn their businesses into locally based “terrestrial” services, complete with locally originated programming. NAB asked the FCC to ensure that terrestrial repeaters “are used only to retransmit the complete signal from the primary station, intended for the consumer satellite receivers, at the time it is transmitted.” Said Fritts, “If XM and Sirius want to provide traditional over-the-air radio service, they should apply for over- the-air licenses like everyone else. Otherwise, they are making a mockery of FCC rules and regulations.”

      XM spokesman Charles Robbins responded saying that the FCC “has always acknowledged and understood that the terrestrial repeater system is an integral and fundamental part of DARS.” In addition, he said the company has “every confidence that XM will have the necessary approvals to begin service.”

      l Sirius also last week said that BMW of the US will add its satellite audio systems to its range beginning in 2Q/2002. Beginning next year all BMW 3 Series, 5 Series, and X5 vehicles will come equipped with a Sirius-ready headend unit and will be pre-wired for the necessary trunk unit and antenna.

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