November 29, 2015

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NAB Wants National-Only Rule For Satellite Radio

WASHINGTON -- February 15, 2008: Saying a combined XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio may well have "different needs and incentives for the use of terrestrial repeaters" than they do as separate companies -- including "a heightened desire to offer locally oriented programming, including local advertising" -- the NAB is asking the FCC to adopt final repeater rules that block the satcasters from offering local content on their repeater networks.

The NAB's FCC filing continues, "In adopting final rules for [satellite digital audio radio service] repeaters, it is also necessary that the commission be mindful of the SDARS licensees' record of misbehavior in this area."

In XM's case, that "misbehavior" includes, says the NAB, 19 unauthorized repeaters, 142 repeaters in unauthorized locations, at least 221 repeaters operating at power levels exceeding authorized levels, and unauthorized extra antennas or too-tall antennas at a number of repeater stations -- all of which, the NAB says, XM has admitted.

Meanwhile, Sirius, according to the NAB filing, has acknowledged having 11 repeaters in locations that "differ slightly from the [Special Temporary Authority] -- more than half of them within two miles of their reported sites." But, the filing continues, "Closer examination reveals that of the 11 repeaters in question, eight are located at least 1.4 miles away from their authorized locations, four are places at least five miles from their reported locations, and one in Lansing, MI, was deployed 67 miles away from its FCC-authorized location." (NAB's emphasis.)

In light of these "historical failures to comply" with repeater and other rules -- and "the expected negative consumer impact of their pending merger" --the NAB says it is important that the FCC impose requirements on XM and Sirius "as needed, with appropriate enforcement mechanisms."

The NAB notes that, back in 1997, the FCC said repeaters must be "complementary" to satellite service "in order to prevent an SDARS licensee's network of terrestrial repeaters from transforming into an independent terrestrial network" and ruled that satellite radio transmission of local programming "would be inconsistent with the allocation of this spectrum." Says the NAB, "The conclusion was sound then, and remains so today."

The NAB is asking the FCC to codify language suggested by XM and the NAB that reads, "SDARS repeaters are restricted to the simultaneous retransmission of the complete programming, and only that programming, transmitted by the satellite directly to the SDARS subscribers' receivers, and may not be used to distribute any information not also transmitted to all subscribers' receivers."

Along with the language, the NAB would also like the FCC to "assure the public that it will carefully monitor and enforce the SDARS licensees' compliance with this and all final repeater rules, especially given their historical pattern and practice of violating the terms and conditions of the STAs governing their terrestrial repeaters."

In the same filing, the NAB expresses its opposition to allowing Sirius to feed some of its repeaters by way of third-party satellites and to letting it add repeaters in Alaska and Hawaii, where, the NAB acknowledges, it is "virtually impossible" to receive a Sirius signal. Allowing those repeaters would, says the NAB, "contradict the commission's long-established purpose for terrestrial repeaters as 'gap-fillers'" for a national satellite service.

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