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Lawmaker, NPR Want HD Radio Satellite Receivers

WASHINGTON -- July 15, 2008: House Telecommunications Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA) has joined those asking that HD Radio capability be part of any future satellite radio receivers if XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio are allowed to merge. The suggestion was first raised by HD developer iBiquity in December 2007, and was soon echoed by Clear Channel in its list of proposed merger conditions, and by lawmakers including Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Ben Cardin (D-MD).

In a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, Markey says that, because the XM-Sirius merger would involve the only two satellite radio providers, it should be subject to "extraordinary conditions." Markey notes that he and Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) earlier requested an open device standard and and a ban on exclusive equipment deals, but says, "I believe the commission now needs to go further."

Markey continues, "It is likely that over time a combined XM-Sirius will not remain largely commercial-free, but instead will air more national commercial advertisements. Such a trend will undoubtedly affect the viability of free, over-the-air radio stations in many markets." In light of that, he says, "If the commission is going to countenance the merger of the two existing satellite radio companies, I believe that terrestrial HD Radio technology should be required in all new satellite radio receivers."

Markey would also like to see the three-year price freeze the satcasters have agreed to extended to six years, and asks that a set-aside for noncommercial programming be expressed as a percentage of capacity rather than a number of channels -- XM and Sirius have agreed to put aside a dozen channel apiece for minority-controlled and noncommercial content.

In a separate letter, NPR also asks for HD Radio to be part of all post-merger satellite receivers. In a letter to Martin, the pubcaster says, "A merger condition requiring the inclusion of HD Radio
technology in all new satellite receivers would ensure a competitive market for digital terrestrial broadcasting, while preventing monopolistic market forces from squeezing out this growing service."

NPR notes that the House Appropriations Subcommittee has authorized an additional $40 million to assist public radio stations in transitioning to HD and says, "Clearly, the Congres supports our transition to terrestrial digital broadcasting and the increased programming diversity that represents. Congress' investment in our broadcasting infrastructure will be marginalized unless the merged entity is required to insert HD Radio technology in all new satellite receivers."

NPR also proposes 25 percent as the spectrum set-aside for noncommercial, emergency, and minority-controlled programming.


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