By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Merger musings

Satellite radio is transitional technology, which is why I’m not all that concerned about yesterday’s announcement by XM and Sirius that they intend to merge.

In a few years, if federal regulators don’t mess it up, the wireless, ubiquitous, high-speed Internet will be a reality, which means that we’ll no longer be dependent on the likes of Mel Karmazin to bring us audio programming that’s more daring than commercial broadcast radio. It will be like podcasting, except that you’ll be able to get it when you want, where you want — in your car, on your cell phone, whatever.

Besides, news reports of the proposed merger, including this one in the New York Times, make it clear that FCC approval for the XM-Sirius merger is no sure thing.

Still, there’s one aspect to this that bugs me. The reason that an XM-Sirius merger sounds at least mildly attractive is that the two services are technologically incompatible. If you want to listen to Howard Stern on Sirius and Bob Dylan on XM, you don’t just have to pay two bills a month — you also need two separate radios. That’s ridiculous, and I’m sure it explains why there are still only 14 million satellite radio subscribers. (Media Nation subscribes to neither service, choosing instead to scour the Internet for MP3s of Dylan’s “Theme Time Radio Hour.”)

FCC officials can’t know whether satellite competition would work because no one has ever tried it. If XM and Sirius had to go head to head using the same technology, rather than existing in their own separate universes, consumers might benefit even as the two services save costs. That ought to be the direction in which the FCC encourages them to move.

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I saw the lite


  1. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    I’ve actually been a fan of satellite radio since I got my XM receivers so that i could avoid Castiglione at least half the time on Red Sox games (can we just admit he’s awful and move on?)But a satellite merger is inevitable if competing services are not financially viable.The scary part of merger is Karmazin, no doubt about it. Even on the pop satellite stations, the programmers seem to have some flexibility that goes beyond the “play only what’s tested well” approach of Infinity under Karmazin. The other part that is cause for concern is whose radios will be the standard? No doubt they will simulcast at the start, but eventually they’ll have to either launch new birds or migrate to one system and common sense says it’ll be Sirrus since apparently their satellites have higher sky positions and better coverage while XM uses a lot of terrestrial repeaters.The angst of the broadcasters ought to be dismissed out of hand. Even at night, most are running 15 minutes of spots an hour. And they’ve already succeeded in preventing the satellite broadcasters from airing the same program at the same clock time in different time zones (so your morning shows begin at three and end at six on the west coast)

  2. Peter Porcupine

    I am old enough to remember when we were told not to get the technically superior Betamax, but stick with VHS, the good ole USA standard – why help them Japanese?The marketplace will sort this out in 3 – 5 years time, without government intervention.In the meantime, web radiocasting will continue to grow, with no compatability problems.

  3. Man who's an NPR fan

    It gets better Dan, when the FCC first authorized satellite radio…there was an artificial time period when satellite radio OEM’s were forbidden from making receivers that could get both XM and Sirius. But that was supposed to last three years and/or end by 2003. So much for that; instead we still have this (as you say) retarded system where the radios are completely incompatible with each other’s service…purely for competitive (not technical) reasons.The real problem, of course, is that satellite radio is a great idea in theory…but the reality of today is that it’s a giant shell game. Their claimed “subscriber numbers” are total hogwash; they’re based on the thousands upon thousands of free subscriptions they give away with new cars. Helps drive up listener numbers, but it’s not bringing in much-needed cash. Worse still, a frighteningly high number of those giveaways don’t pay to subscribe when the three, six (or more common) 12 month period is up. So they give away more subscriptions to keep those subscriber numbers high.NAB and NPR also have pikes ready for satellites’ heads thanks all the damn little Part 15 FM repeaters that satradios typically use to be audible in a car. At least one-third, if not two-thirds, of them are violating Part 15 rules and causing interference to regular AM & FM stations (yes, AM too) all over the place. If NAB/NPR succeed in getting the FCC to ban the devices…which is slowly looking more likely every day…it’s a death knell for satradio. And satradio knows it.To sum it up, this merger is a sign of desperation. XM & Sirius have overspent and are playing fast and loose at almost every turn. Odds are good there won’t be two satradio companies by 2008 with or without the merger.FWIW, Sirius uses a trio of satellites in oscillating orbits. In theory no part of the continental US ever has fewer than two satellites “visible” to the receivers. In reality, this is not very true…especially in cities and mountainous areas where line-of-sight is hard to come by. XM uses two geostationary satellites and, yes, more ground-based repeaters to fill in the gaps. Although BOTH services have been slapped by the FCC for running more of and higher power ground-based repeaters than they were authorized to do. While this is two different methods, it’s not very difficult to build a receiver that can get both XM’s & Sirius’s signals. Although navigating 130+ channels is already a pain with the common user interfaces on satradios…I can’t imagine how much more of a pain it’ll be trying to navigate 260+ channels.

  4. Mike from Norwell

    The antitrust issues do seem to be an issue here, although as Dan pointed out, could be the FTC arguing about a merger of buggy whip manufacturers in 1903.A little OT, Dan, but have you checked out Wolfgang’s Vault yet? pretty cool concerts via the Bill Graham estate, free and legit…

  5. Anonymous

    It’s amazing how we manage to find every little reason to whine and be skeptical..Two things here:-Dan’s dream of podcasting overshadowing all other radio and sat radio is missing a crucial link- a big one- called copyright and the need for compensation. You can rest assured that YOU will NOT find any good desirable content until there is a way to pay its owner. This isn’t the wild wild web where you can go online and pilfer content for free. Songs and news casts and opinion shows HAVE to either get advertising money or subscription money beofre your “plan” can work. Everyday there is another stream of lawsuits and cease-and-desist letters falling on Youtube and other content aggregators – Napster anyone?- Big companies and small artists and journalist will get NOTHING according to your model, Dan and that doesn’t strike me as fair, nor compatible with a fair and equitable free market. I am not even going to bring up the technical difficulty of bridging the gap of bringing podcasts, legal or illegal closer to the user and more accessible.- People are so quick to dismiss and whine about sat radios and how they are “scams” That is total hogwash. And people who sample sat radio are a lot more likely to keep it. You’ll hear often that once people get used to the format, no ads and programming, it is hard to readjust to terrestrial.Let’s turn the tables on you dissenters for a second: Don’t you find it incomprehensibly dishonest and exploitative that generations after we have reached the moon and technology has reached a great zenith that in the 21st century, -a good 4 centuries after the industrial revolution- that we still can’t get these MULTIBILLION dollar companies to offer very good signals that reach Wellesley and Framingham ALL DAY LONG. Why is it that we still have lousy signals from these cashcow AM stations that you can’t even pick up adequately if you go over 40 miles away from Boston? You mean to tell me that Clear Channel or Entercom or Viacom or ESPN CANNOT invest in a clear GUARANTEED reception? They don’t have the money or there is no pressure/incentive to upgrade and guarantee? How about if you are an advertiser and your message only reaches 20% of potential radios that you were promised. Don’t they owe avertisers a guarantee to the stats they use to hook them with?HD radio is one such PR tool these big companies have resorted to to seem like they are doing something. Big failure. Penetration is nowhere near needed. Too little too late.Before you slander something you probably can’t afford or don’t appreciate enough, or slander a good guy like Karmazin, think twice about the whole picture.When a company has one or two rock stations in any given area of ad-supported stations, they have to discriminate which songs to put on to maximize interest and ad exposure. When you are dealing with sat radio where you have MANY rock stations, in subcategories and without the same ad pressures, you don’t have to be as careful to maximize air time for the most popular songs, but you have time and space to fill programming lineups with, ALL DAY long, so the Karmazin shot is way off base. This is a very different context. One with half a brain and a minimum of honesty would have to give Mel a LOT of credit for putting Sirius on the map and really invigorating it when it was literally just drifting. He is a solid business guy. XMplusSirius are the only game in sat radio, but they are no where near dominating on the whole radio picture, so the decision could go either way.N.

  6. Anonymous

    VHS was developed by JVC, the Japanese Victor Corporation. It might have been a US standard, but the products based on that standard were Japanese. Mostly Panisonic, if memory serves.There were two major reasons for the victory of VHS over Betamax. One was VHS’s longer recording time (originally 2 hrs instead of 1, which was long enough to make it possible for one VHS tape to contain entire movies.) The more important reason was that Sony, the developer of Betamax and owner of the Betamax patents, refused to allow pornography to be recorded onto Betamax tapes. That latter spelled the death-knell for Betamax. Ironically, Sony is doing the same with an HDTV video discs now, and the competing technology will allow it. (When will Sony ever learn?)Porn is what brings me to the Sirius/XM fusion. Sirius hit it out of the ball-park when they hired Howard Stern (I consider him somewhat pornographic). That’s probably why the smaller (I believe this is the case) Sirius is acquiring the larger XM, and not the other way around. The incompatible technologies probably won’t be a problem in the mid-term, given the fact that tuners and decoders for the two can probably be packed into the same size boxes as now. Dan is right that satellite radio is an intermediate technology to internet streaming (just as video tape was an intermediate technology from record-like video discs to DVDs), but, until you get wireless Internet pretty much everywhere in the country–even in Death Valley–it just won’t be a perfect substitute. –raj

  7. Anonymous

    Note to anonymous @ 1:38 PMWhat Dan was (probably) referring to was Internet streaming. A number of radio stations do that already. Actually, some TV networks do, too, for their popular shows. (Have you ever seen Desperate Housewives over the Internet? It’s actually a pretty convenient way of watching it.) I doubt that radio stations (or TV networks) do that without permission of the content owners, and so the copyright issue would probably not be particularly relevant. The only question that I would have is, how do they account for the number and locations of listeners and viewers, which obviously would go into their ratings calculations? I suppose that they would determine the number of client computers that are streaming from their servers, which should be a simple matter for them to keep track of.–raj

  8. Anonymous

    Raj:”so the copyright issue would probably not be particularly relevant.”I have to disagree here my friend. You haven’t been paying attention.There is towo types of TV content on the internet…well three1- Unauthorized use that is being legally shut down and unusable in any reliable commercial way.2- Content made availabe and licensed by the networks and production companies. This is going to be most of the desirable for the near future. There was an article a few days ago on how NBC now uses the internet for their viewers benefit to keep up with shows.3- Internet-specific video products. Now here there has been a lot of buzz and there is a serious shortage of reliable products and shows that advertisers are willing to piggy back on. It is the potential of the future, but to date there is GREAT online-only product out there. From Curret TV to a new local Boston based TV as mediocre and niche efforts at best. Very lacking.So explain to me how do you have a one-hour show of say Grey’s anatomy or Cousin Anthony’s half hour Standup Amateur Comedy or U2’s latest complete CD stored online and sitting waiting for me in my car or on a beach front to enjoy, WITHOUT having to deploy a laptop.That bridge is not there yet and upstarts are working on it, until then and when it is done so that content owners get compensated, only then you can say there is a new alternative.Apple’s new phone and other companies new 3G and higher memory capacity like Moto’s Q ipod capability for example is a start to the solution. Slingbox on the Q is a pretty good start as well.You have to understand that we are coming from a very different concept, one where cable companies control a tremendoussly big and expensive, intruder-proof network or cables and hardware that gives them a lockdown on access to homes. Not even satellite TV companies or broadband phone companies – with billions of money on hand- have not been able to break out.It is only with their collaboration that it would work, ie including cable as part of the solution/pay scheme or credibly weening major networks and media content companies from huge cable royalties to a new pay scheme.Dreaming and hoping is one thing; being realistic and providing answers is quite another.Cheers,N.

  9. Anonymous

    I actually forgot this linkJust one example of the homework in terms of quality of content and easy-to-use tech to be found.N.

  10. Dan Kennedy

    In answer to a couple of these comments … I am not predicting an industry based on massive copyright violation. I am predicting the rise of many, many Web-based “radio” stations, both large and small, based on legitimate business models, including the payment of royalties.How this is to be worked out has yet to be determined. Some sort of fee on Internet access, to be paid to copyright-holders based on a survey of what’s the most popular content, is something that’s been suggested in the past, and may have some applicability here. But, really, who knows at this point?

  11. Anonymous

    Dan said:>>choosing instead to scour the Internet for MP3s<<Dan, is there a place on the internet that offers MP3’s of some of the satellite broadcasts? (Either legit or not-so-much…)?Are they available on the file sharing nets?Thanks!

  12. Anonymous

    anonymous @ 5:20 PM Apparently I did not express myself succinctly enough.One, radio stations are streaming content over the Internet. I listen to Ed Schultz from a San Francisco radio station’s web site, and Mike Malloy from a Phoenix radio station’s web site. Howie Carr is streamed over WRKO’s web site (it’s, but it’s really WRKO). It is highly, if not completely, likely that those stations are licensed to stream the material over the Internet from the web sites. Why do I say that? Because they also broadcast the material over the airwaves, and if the content providers didn’t want the stations to also stream them, they most likely wouldn’t be provided with the content. No copyright infringement.Two, TV networks are streaming at least some of their TV shows over the Internet. Not only ABC, but also CBS (we watched part of CSI from the CBS web site over the Internet recently). We haven’t checked for NBC, but we watch clips from Comedy Central’s Daily Show and the Colbert Report over the Comedy Central website on the Internet. It would be impossible to believe that those web sites would stream their TV shows unless they had the rights to do so. No copyright infringement.Three, it may be that there are web sites that make available content that has been obtained from other sites, but that are not authorized to provide the content for retransmission. I don’t know of any (Napster was reputed to have done so for audio tracks, but I never went there; I don’t know whether they allowed for re-distribution of video files.) In that case, copyright infringement. If the owner of the copyright wants to stop them, they are within their rights to do so.It is the first two that I was referring to, not the third. Is that sufficiently succinct for you? –raj

  13. Anonymous

    In regards Dan Kennedy @ 8:02 PM comment, quite frankly, I’ve had a First Amendment issue regarding the federal government’s licensing of broadcast radio stations for a long time. It is fully analogous to, in the print media sphere, the federal government determining which companies can have access to newsprint. Allowing broadcasting over the Internet can alleviate that problem to some extent.–raj

  14. man who's an npr fan...

    You mean to tell me that Clear Channel or Entercom or Viacom or ESPN CANNOT invest in a clear GUARANTEED reception? They don’t have the money or there is no pressure/incentive to upgrade and guarantee?Clear Channel, among other investors, has invested billions of dollars and 15 years of work to help create HD Radio. Which does indeed deliver better quality sound on AM. Yes, yes, I know…there are tons of problems with HD Radio. That’s not the point. You’re acting like these companies haven’t been doing anything to improve the AM&FM service and that’s just not true.Now I’ll bring in raj’s comment of quite frankly, I’ve had a First Amendment issue regarding the federal government’s licensing of broadcast radio stations for a long time. because it directly related to my next point.You can, in theory, have 1000 newspapers in one market with no regulation by the gov’t as you describe. Only market forces will dictate which papers survive.You CANNOT have 1000 radio stations in one market with no regulation. Why? Because the physics don’t care about what you think the First Amendment does and does not apply to. We’ve tried that…ask anyone who researched (or lived) through the early days of AM radio. Before the Federal Radio Commission (precursor to the FCC) was formed. You had dozens of radio stations in the same city, all trying to one-up each other by adding more wattage, and all interfering terribly with each other to the point where you couldn’t hear a station more than a quarter-mile away from its transmitter.Anon. N, if you want interference-free AM that’s audible across an entire region…that’s certainly possible. All you have to do is accept that there will only be ONE STATION PER MARKET because that’s about the maximum you can squeeze across the entire US by your desired criteria. Dem’s the physics.There is no free lunch. Either you have more choice or you have a broader reception area. Pick your poison.FM is a little better, but the principle still stands. The only way to ensure better reception is to reduce the number of stations on the dial. If anything, people have been clamoring for the exact opposite with LPFM.

  15. Anonymous

    “You’re acting like these companies haven’t been doing anything to improve the AM&FM service and that’s just not true.”HD Radio was brought about as a reaction to Sat Radio, it was no noble independent project. It is a halfwit measure designed to mollify critics and stem sat radio gains.You don’t need a terribly different radio if the DAMN SIGNALS ARE STRONG to begin with. If WBZ can do it, others can for sure.N.

  16. Lisa Williams

    Wow, good thread, I learned some stuff in this one. I’m a happy XM subscriber — I like the variety — and I’m looking forward to getting some of the PodShow stuff that plays on Sirius if that pans out. Would be great to have a channel that plays whatever is at the top of the iTunes or PP “newly added” podcast charts. And NPR Fan reminds me of the not-so-nice side of fuzzy NPR — who I remember being unhappy with when they helped to quash a lot of independent streaming radio with regulation. But my memory of the precise history is a little hazy, so feel free to tell me I’m off base….I was a big fan of streams from non-radio sources, and I was glad when podcasting came along to replicate a lot of what streaming did and more. I’m dismayed to find NPR opposing a lot of what I find vital about radio and radio-like technologies today.

  17. Lisa Williams

    Raj says: Dan’s dream of podcasting overshadowing all other radio and sat radio is missing a crucial link- a big one- called copyright and the need for compensation. You can rest assured that YOU will NOT find any good desirable content until there is a way to pay its owner. This isn’t the wild wild web where you can go online and pilfer content for free. Actually, other than subscribing to Radio Open Source and On the Media, I don’t subscribe to a single podcast that comes from a commercial source — and they’re great. Also, they’re noninfringing — they use CC licensed or Podsafe Music Network music for bumpers. I’m thinking of the RU Serious Show, and Adam Curry’s Daily Source Code, The Commonwealth Club Forum, Ford Forum, WGBH; podcasts from the Kennedy School of Government forums are some of the best on international policy anywhere; and tons of other podcasts that aren’t just timeshifted radio programs. There’s enough good stuff out there that I haven’t listened to “real” radio by choice for years: I listen to XM and podcasts exclusively. The internet is not dependent on controlled-distribution media anymore; to think it’s just a parasite is simply flat wrong.

  18. Anonymous

    I’ll have more later regarding NPR fan’s comment, but I cannot let this go by now from “N@5:33 PM”You don’t need a terribly different radio if the DAMN SIGNALS ARE STRONG to begin with. If WBZ can do it, others can for sure.You have to understand about WBZ. It is one of (I believe it is) seven (real) clear channel stations in the country. (Not the “Clear Channel” company, clear channel stations.) If memory serves, those stations are the only stations that are allowed to broadcast on their frequencies, and they all broadcast at the maximum power permitted by the FCC (50Kwatts for an AM station) without limitation as to broadcast pattern. When I was a student at Ohio State University (Columbus OH) in the late 1960s, we would regularly get in WBZ from Boston. It’s not the signal strength of WBZ that is to its benefit–WRKO has the same signal strength as WBZ for most of the day–it is the fact that it is a clear channel station.I’m not sure of the identities of all of the other clear channel stations, but one was broadcasting out of Cincinnati (WLW). For a short period of time, they experimented with upping their power to 500K watts, but that proved to be severely detrimental to the people and cows living near their antennas (people nearby could hear the station through the fillings in their teeth), and so they had to reduce it.I suspect, but cannot prove, that the clear channel concept was developed as part of the national defense effort decades ago–so that there would be at least several AM stations that covered the entire continental US that could provide information in the event of a national emergency.–raj

  19. Anonymous

    Lisa,( you meant to address my comment, not raj’s)I never said Internet broadcasting is a “parasite.” What I am saying, for commercial concerns, internet streaming is a side show and many stations don’t even have that option. And for exclusively internet-based brodacasts, they are niche products that no huge part of the public is clamoring for.What I am talking about is using the internet to host a very popular show like a 500+affiliate Rush Limbaugh show or NPR major shows like ATC, directly TO people, LIVE and without storing or copying or too much hassle. How do people turn a button on on a new device or new car radios and get LIVE intenrnet radio streams as easily as we get radio signals today.That’s what I am talking about.The internet has a huge role to play but as of now, it isn’t a dominating one.N.

  20. Lisa Williams

    Ah, OK. Sorry, N, in that case we’re in agreement. I don’t have any problem with streams having ads, for that matter. However, when we talk about copying vs. live, I’m also a big TiVO user. As a result, I hardly know when anything is on “live” anymore. I was really excited about a device called The Squeezebox, a pre-TiVo standalone device, looking like a cartoony radio, that “tuned in” streaming radio and would record it. It never materialized, but I’d still buy that device, and in a way, between podcasting and the iPod, I have. I subscribe to about 30, plug in the iPod at night to charge and sync, and pretty much never run out of something to listen to. (Most I listen to are weekly programs, I’m not sure I subscribe to any daily programs). I use XM for that, come to think of it.

  21. man who's an npr fan

    Raj, you’re correct in the essentials. The concept of a “clear channel” station is borne out of the days of CONELRAD. But it’s rooted in the physics that AM signals “bounce” off the upper atmosphere at night, thus travelling for 100’s or even 1000’s of miles. There are a handful of AM frequencies where there’s only one, two or three stations on that freq – those are the “clear channels”. WBZ is one of them, hence the massive broadcast coverage. WBZ also has one of the best transmitter sites on the entire eastern seaboard; that marshy area in Hull has fabulous ground conductivity into Boston Harbor that roars the signal into Boston itself. Ground conductivity (and broadcast frequency) is important…just look at how far KFRM gets with only 5000 watts vs. WBZ’s 50000 watts.WBZ:, AM stations have significant differences in coverage due to their directional broadcast patterns. This is VERY apparent with WEEI at night, where even with 50000 watts, they have virtually zero coverage in Framingham despite being audible as far north as Bangor, ME.WEEI @ Night: PM, I understand your sentiment on HD Radio was brought about as a reaction to Sat Radio, it was no noble independent project. It is a halfwit measure designed to mollify critics and stem sat radio gains. but check your facts before you spew invective. USADR, the original company behind HD Radio before they merged with Lucent to become iBiquity, was founded in 1991 as a joint effort by CBS, Gannett and other companies. That joint effort was spurred by Bell Labs’ development of the PAC codec (later replaced by HDC) in 1989…and PAC’s genesis can arguably be traced to the 1970’s and 80’s.Sirius was originally founded in 1990, and XM in 1988. So at best they “beat” HD Radio by two or three years…but really it was the realization that audio codecs were allowing digital systems to work for broadcast that spurred both satellite and HD radio. Hell, Sirius originally licensed PAC from Lucent as their codec, too.It wasn’t a fear reaction of one to the other…lest we forget, terrestrial broadcasters were (and are) significant stakeholders in both XM and Sirius.Now I will admit that many people (including iBiquity themselves) have tried to market HD Radio as terrestrial radio’s salvation from the satellite radio juggernaut. This was unfortunate and, I agree, quite misleading. But HD Radio has cost untold billions to research, develop, and roll out. That’s not something you do purely as a reactionary move to an unproven threat; there are, and were, cheaper ways that terrestrial radio could’ve dealt with satradio were that the case.

  22. Anonymous

    NPR fanI’m familiar with some of the history regarding the FRC’s spectrum allocation that you recounted in your earlier post, and I’m familiar with the issues regarding WBZ’s signal strength in other parts of the country (the ground plane and signals bouncing off the ionosphere), and I’m familiar with the technical issues regarding allowing 1000 (or so) AM or FM stations to transmit to consumers (although, with spread spectrum technology, the problem now wouldn’t be so great–see a recent IEEE Spectrum). But, my 1st amendment issue is really as simple as this. The government allocates newsprint–paper, spectrum, whatever–to certain senders. Currently, the licensed senders determine who gets to send. Under the 1st amendment, the government can establish (reasonable) time, place and manner restrictions regarding speech, provided that the restrictions be content neutral. That last is the important issue. Provided that the restrictions be content neutral. The licensed senders are essentially “sub-licensees” of the federal government’s power to control the spectrum–a power that I do not reject.But, under the current regime, sans fairness doctrine, broadcasters can broadcast whatever they want, regardless of content, and the government’s licensing regime will allow them to do so without impediment. And, in addition, the government will prosecute anyone who wants to broadcast a contrarion opinion, if he cannot find a licensed broadcaster who will carry his–or her–message. As far as I can tell, that is a violation of the “content neutrality” touchstone of the 1st amendment, and that’s why the FCC regs violate the 1st amendment. It really is as simple as that. Reinstitute the fairness doctrine. Declare all broadcasters to be common carriers. Whatever. I understand the broadcast companies objection to the fairness doctrine, but so what? The current regime is a violation of the 1st amendment.The current licensing regime is not going to be found to be in violation of the 1st amendment, of course, because there’s too much money involved in the current regime. A number of years ago, when Boston’s channel 5 was first sold, the sale price was huge multiples of the value of the property. The reason? The FCC license. Who cares about the 1st amendment when money is involved? Yes, I’m being snarky.–raj

  23. Anonymous

    Oh, and, question for NPR fan, do you have link to a not necessarily succinct, yet technically detailed, technical manual (or more than one) describing the technology behind satellite radio. I know that it’s done digitally, but I’m wondering about how the many numbers of channels are transmitted (what are they? multiplexed?) on the same signal. Or signals.Thanks in advance.–raj

  24. Anonymous

    NPR fanSorry to bother you again…Similarly, AM stations have significant differences in coverage due to their directional broadcast patterns. This is VERY apparent with WEEI at night, where even with 50000 watts, they have virtually zero coverage in Framingham despite being audible as far north as Bangor, ME.I assume that, by WEEI, you mean AM850. If so, I had noticed that in 1979-1980, when I first moved to Boston. But, during the day, AM850 came in satisfactorily in Framingham where we then lived, but was very difficult to receive at night. I had assumed that they reduced the power, changed the directional broadcast patterns, or some combination of the two.–raj

  25. man who's an npr fan

    Raj, where the hell are you getting your First Amendment interpretation???But, my 1st amendment issue is really as simple as this. The government allocates newsprint–paper, spectrum, whatever–to certain senders. Currently, the licensed senders determine who gets to send. Under the 1st amendment, the government can establish (reasonable) time, place and manner restrictions regarding speech, provided that the restrictions be content neutral. Okay, so here is the ACTUAL First Amendment:Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.There’s no content judgement WHATSOEVER in the 1st Amendment. This is exactly WHY the Fairness Doctrine was removed. The 1st Amendment doesn’t say you have a right to the airwaves any more than you have a right to (magically) have a voice that can shout across dozens of miles and drown out everyone else’s personal conversations.Mind you, I wouldn’t disagree with the Fairness Doctrine coming back to a certain degree…but all-in-all I’m much happier without it. With the FD, stations had to pander to both sides, which meant bland, boring content. Just because I don’t agree with what Fox News says doesn’t mean I get to say that Fox News can’t say it. If I felt that way, then conservatives would have every right to take away my beloved center-left NPR!As for the technical details behind Satellite Radio I’d start with Wikipedia here and hereand then move on to Radio World and just Googling the term “SDARS”.And yes, I did mean 850AM…it’s easy to forget that wasn’t always “WEEI” for us youngin’s 🙂 (I moved to Boston full time in 1996). To answer your question, yes, WEEI changes patterns at sunset like many AM stations do. During the day they are non-directional but at night they have a deep null to the west of their site in Needham, so very little signal goes that way. WRKO 680AM has a similar pattern from their array next to the Burlington Mall. In WEEI’s case, you can readily hear the change every night at sunset when the audio/signal disappears for about three seconds during the change. No doubt this is VERY frustrating for Red Sox fans in Metrowest during the summer when the game suddenly “disappears” at sunset.Many other AM stations not only change patterns, but also power. Some are “daytime only” and completely shut down at night, like WNTN 1550AM. Or come close to shutting down, like WJIB 740AM (250w day / 12w night). It all depends on what “class” of AM station you are. See the FCC’s website here.Browse through and you can see the “official” patterns of all licensed AM & FM stations. These patterns are for regulatory purposes, and often have little correlation to how “receivable” a signal is on your radio, but it’s a decent place to start.BTW, there has been some fascinating developments using Ultra Wide Band technology for media transmission. Usually up in the 5GHz range but, in theory, UWB could replace virtually every single wireless technology (including AM, FM and TV, not to mention cellphones, WiFi, etc) out there and work across almost the entire EM spectrum. Really cool stuff. Pity there’s so much time and infrastructure invested in the current schemes that any UWB rollout will take decades. But eventually it’ll roll around.

  26. Anonymous

    To the fan:”but check your facts before you spew invective. USADR, the original company behind HD Radio before they merged with Lucent to become iBiquity, was founded in 1991 …..and PAC’s genesis can arguably be traced to the 1970’s and 80’s.”Well so does Satellite radio. DirectTv goes back the start of the eighties and music channels were part of the channel line up. Then there was a dedicated music service, called DMX Music launched in 1992 to exclusively program music channels in different genres through cable and satellite providers.So the roots of sat radio were just as old as HD radio as you contend. My point is: from 1991-2 to 2007, satellite radio companies have climbed a much steeper and much more successful learning R&D curve and have achieved miniaturization much quicker and better than the old hulky dishes you needed for any sort of uplink/remote data transfer.So my point continues to be, why hasn’t FM/AM radio technology along with its signal technology not shrink the gap in performance and quality in the same time? In other words, why isn’t HD radio ubiquitous by now?You say they tried and I say, the results and facts on the ground say otherwise, suggesting complacency and unfair/indifferent treatment of their advertisers and listeners.Chances are, you may very well be employed by such media companies since you are well-versed on the technical side, or at least very interested in it, so I would understand if that explains your bias.I can tell you, a lot of regular listeners are not happy with the result.N.

  27. Anonymous

    NPR fan asksRaj, where the hell are you getting your First Amendment interpretation???I’m a lawyer. (My undergrad and grad degrees were in engineering and physics, but my professional degrees are in law.) Whatever the text of the 1st amendment is (and I’m quite familiar with it), the fact is that content neutrality is one of the touchstones of the application of the 1st amendment. Government can impose reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on speech, provided that the restrictions are content neutral. If you want the long-winded, lawyerese discussion, look here (and elsewhere on If you want the short, succinct description for the layman, look here. They basically add up to the same thing. Government can impose reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on speech–for example, you can’t go “speaking” in the Back Bay at 3AM through a megaphone at 1000dB–provided the restrictions are content neutral.I suspect, but cannot prove (since I was not alive at the time) that the fairness doctrine was originally instituted in recognition that, since the government was limiting access to spectrum, it had to provide some mechanism that might provide some semblance of content neutrality to reflect the regulation. And the fairness doctrine was what they came up with. The abolishment of the fairness doctrine came during a wave of industrial de-regulation that began in the late 1970s (remember when the government de-regulated the airlines?), and in recognition of two other facts. One, there were other modes of getting speech out–although those modes were not necessarily on par with broadcast radio. And, two, it was argued that the fairness doctrine actually inhibited speech, since licensees would not want to have to carry speech from all parties if it carried speech from one party. That’s the long and short of it.Thanks for the pointers to the technical information regarding satellite radio. I didn’t know the technical buzz words to even do a google search.–raj

  28. man who's an npr fan

    Well, to be fair, HD Radio was a technical solution to a political problem. Most sane people would’ve preferred that new spectrum be allocated for a digital radio solution like Eureka 147 or something like that.The problem is that two-way wireless is inherently more valuable than one-way wireless (i.e. TV & Radio). So nobody wanted to give up that more valuable spectrum for a 20 year transition period.Further, a lot of non-IBOC DAB solutions tend to “level the playing field” in that suddenly all the little stations would have the same broadcast reach that the big stations do. NAB wanted no part of that and successfully lobbied Congress based largely on that issue.Plus, IIRC, Eureka wouldn’t work in the US because the military uses the freq band that Eureka operates in and refused to give it up.So dumber heads prevailed way back in the 1980’s and 90’s and we ended up with IBOC. Everyone knew damn well from the beginning that it would be an imperfect solution, but it was the framework iBiquity (and its predecessors) was forced to work within.Plus satellite radio controls virtually every step of the engineering chain from DJ to listener, and it’s ONE chain (well, maybe a few due to terrestrial repeaters). HD Radio does not; it must deal with thousands of station owners and thousands of different transmitter plants…some of which are AM, some are FM. That makes finding a workable solution a HELL of a lot harder than satellite radio. So while the technical solutions might, in theory, be easier…the political angle makes for a much longer timeframe.To answer your question, I am freelance engineer and I have helped several stations evaluate & execute HD Radio installations. I also sat on several meetings of the NRSC-5 standard setting committee. FWIW, I’m no friend of iBiquity and the other NRSC-5 members will attest to that! I do think HD Radio is a flawed solution but it is the solution we have, and it’s still got a lot of potential to help radio compete in the greater media market…not just against satellite.

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