Satellite Radio Blog

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Want HD Radio With That?

Wouldn't it be convenient if all satellite radio—meaning Sirius XM—receivers also handled over-the-air HD Radio? A bill in Congress would mandate this pairing. The Federal Communications Commission is also considering it as an outgrowth of its approval for the Sirius XM merger.

On one level, the requirement makes sense. Haven't AM and FM radio been a happy couple for decades? But it also would mean binding a free medium to a subscription medium, something of a precedent setter. It is easy to imagine satellite listeners, having gotten a taste of free digital radio, letting their subscriptions lapse, especially when times are hard. The National Association of Broadcasters predictably "salutes the leadership" of Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), who introduced the legislation in the House of Representatives. Lining up in support are Clear Channel, public radio, and Ibiquity, developer of HD Radio.

Not so enthusiastic are the satellite broadcasters. Lining up in their support are Toyota and General Motors, which build satellite radios into their cars, but don't favor this "unprecedented requirement regulating the choice of entertainment technologies in an automotive environment." When it approved the Sirius XM merger, the FCC also approved an open-device requirement for satellite radio. That conceivably could mean accommodating HD Radio, but then again, the extra device could also be internet radio or an iPod dock.

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