B’casters seek probe of XM Radio

FCC asked to investigate satellite service's patent

WASHINGTON — The National Assn. of Broadcasters on Monday asked the Federal Communications Commission to investigate whether XM Satellite Radio is circumventing the rules by trying to air locally in various regions without getting individual licenses.

“We are astonished to learn that XM Radio has secretly acquired a patent that will allow the company to provide local radio programming through its extensive terrestrial repeater network,” NAB prexy-CEO Eddie Fritts said.

The NAB alleged in papers filed with the FCC that XM intends to use the patented technology to turn an intricate web of terrestrial towers into what are essentially local towers.

XM spokesman Charles Robbins said there was nothing hidden or illicit about the patent, despite the NAB’s assertion. “We are a national satellite radio service, period,” Robbins said.

In preparing for the launch of XM Satellite Radio last year, company execs repeatedly told the FCC it would be a national broadcaster, using the terrestrial towers only to make up for gaps in satellite service.

The NAB said XM is now going back on its word, evidenced by the patent.

“Regardless, XM’s lack of candor suggests it is time for chairman Michael Powell and the individual FCC commissioners to put a halt to this ruse of a terrestrial repeater network,” Fritts said.

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