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Fritts Blasts Satellite Radio

National Association of Broadcasters president and CEO Edward Fritts came out with guns firing as he lambasted satellite radio technology and asked the FCC to deny separate requests by XM and Sirius to operate land-based signal repeaters to enhance coverage areas. Fritts also urged the satellite radio providers to “at long last” provide the FCC with specific business plans.

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 NAB told the FCC.

“The time for subterfuge by XM Radio and Sirius Radio is over,” said Fritts. “These companies must come clean with regulators and the American people on their true intentions for making satellite radio a viable business.”

Fritts’ comments came as the NAB submitted documents at the FCC questioning whether satellite radio companies intend to turn their businesses into locally-based “terrestrial” services, complete with locally-originated programming.

The requests filed by XM Radio and Sirius “clearly demonstrate … plans to deploy a terrestrial network of high-powered broadcast transmitters to serve most of the U.S. population,” contravening FCC rules establishing satellite radio service, according to the NAB comments. NAB said the two satellite radio licensees’ request for high-powered repeaters has grown from a few hundred to nearly 1,000. In Boston alone, XM has proposed 66 high-powered repeaters, NAB noted. Moreover, XM and Sirius have proposed rules that would not preclude them from transmitting locally originated programs.

“If XM and Sirius want to provide traditional over-the-air radio service, they should apply for over-the-air licenses like everyone else,” said Fritts. “Otherwise, they are making a mockery of FCC rules and regulations.”

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