XM Kicks Off Local Traffic, Weather Channels

XM Satellite Radio launched local traffic and weather channels in 15 markets this weekend.

The Washington, D.C., channel went on the air Saturday, and channels in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Chicago, Houston, Detroit, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Tampa, Orlando, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis debuting today.

XM will launch channels in six other markets-Boston, Atlanta, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Seattle and San Diego-later in 2004.

XM’s plans riled commercial radio broadcasters, who said the government did not intend to create a new competitor for their local services when it approved satellite radio. The National Association of Broadcasters even has asked the FCC to prohibit XM from using land-based repeaters from inserting local programming into their national feeds.

The traffic and weather services being launched now, however, are offered via national satellite feeds and are available to all XM subscribers.

XM Chief Executive Hugh Panero said his company’s traffic and weather channels are a big improvement over what broadcasters offer. "With XM, a listener does not have to wait while the channel switches back and forth between other cities’ traffic problems or local news broadcasts."

To provide the local reports, XM built a traffic and weather center at its headquarters in Washington.