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CEA Defends Sat. Radio In Local Broadcast Fight

6/21/2004 02:00:00 AM Eastern

CEA defended satellite radio providers by asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to support satellite radio's new local traffic and weather stations, despite objections over the service from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

CEA sent a letter on June 4 to the FCC protesting the NAB's efforts to stop satellite radio from offering traffic and weather services through a Petition for Declaratory Ruling filed on April 14. NAB's petition alleged that that both XM and Sirius violated FCC regulations by offering local content.

The Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association (SBCA), XM and Sirius also filed formal responses to the petition. XM claims that 25,000 of its subscribers also objected to the NAB's petition through XM's grassroots Web site.

In February, Sirius began broadcasting local traffic and weather in 20 markets on 10 national stations, calling its service Sirius First Traffic. During the same month, XM launched its XM Instant Traffic and Weather service for 21 markets, also on national stations (so anyone can tune to the local traffic and weather for Houston, for example, even if they are in New York). XM claims that as long as it does not offer Houston weather for Houston only, then it is not in violation of the FCC ruling.

The NAB did not return phone calls. However, its petition (IB Docket No. 95-91) calls the traffic and weather services a "foray into local content," which is "directly contrary to the SDARS licensees' repeated and express promises that satellite radio service would be limited to delivering national programming."

CEA VP Technology Policy Michael Petricone said, "NAB, through its spurious petition, is asking the Commission to stifle innovation by restricting the types of services that satellite radio providers can offer. CEA maintains that NAB's arguments merely serve the economic interests of some terrestrial broadcasters, to the detriment of satellite radio listeners nationwide."

The FCC has not yet set a time to review petitions concerning the issue. A current bill in the House of Representative seeks to ensure that XM and Sirius do not offer local content via repeaters in the future.

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