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Legislators Target XM Local Plans

Two lawmakers want to limit satellite radio's ability to offer locally targeted programming and investigate its plans to do so.

Reps. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., and Gene Green, D-Tex., Wednesday introduced legislation that would order the FCC to investigate XM's plan to offer local programs over nationwide channels.

Their bill also would bar satellite programmers from inserting local programming into ground-based repeaters in tunnels and other areas where the satellite companies say they need to fill gaps in satellite reception.

XM and the National Association of Broadcasters signed an agreement in December that repeaters would not be used for local programming. Just a few weeks later, however, the company announced plans to distribute local weather and traffic via its national channels, effectively bypassing the repeaters and avoiding that issue. Now, anywhere in the country subscribers can tune in to reports for Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort. Worth, Chicago, Houston, Detroit, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Tampa, Orlando, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis. XM will launch channels covering Boston, Atlanta, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Seattle and San Diego later this year.

Broadcasters complain that satellite competition for local programming could drive some radio stations out of business.  "Over the past 19 months, satellite radio companies have been very evasive about their local programming plans," Green said.  "At first, they promised to provide national programming exclusively. Their actions since have demonstrated other intentions.  Our legislation will hold them to their original promise and ensure that satellite radio does not endanger the vital public service local radio broadcasters provide during emergencies."