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Radio AM to FM: November 23, 2001

Satellite Woes

By now there were supposed to be two satellite radio services (called "satcasters" by the movers and shakers of the industry) available to consumers: XM, which launched last month, and Sirius, which at one time was ahead of XM and originally intended on launching its service by late 2000 or early 2001. Now it looks like Sirius won't launch until the first quarter of next year, at the earliest.

Signaling that there may be deeper problems with the company, David Margolese, Sirius Satellite Radio's chief executive officer and cofounder of the company that was originally called CD Radio, resigned in October. Exactly what those problems may be remain a mystery, as do the reasons behind the delay of the service's launch, considering that the satellites are already in the air and the company has been successfully testing the service for months.

Observers hint that a major problem is just getting the required receivers manufactured and into the retail distribution chain, caused by a delivery problem from the supplier of the chips used to decode the satellite signal. However, problems like that don't usually lead to the resignation of the cofounder/CEO.

The delayed launch doesn't necessarily help competitor XM, which kicked off its service in San Diego before going nationwide last month. Some observers feel that one company developing this type of service is not enough, that two companies are needed to to create awareness. XM needs Sirius, according to this type of thinking, to be successful. I don't buy that argument, but others do.

XM's service, which combines original programming and retransmission of existing radio stations includes stations with commercials and some without for about $10 per month. Sirius, on the other hand, plans to offer only noncommercial programming without personalities for about $14 per month.


From Broadcasting and Cable Magazine: Clear Channel, owner of about 1500 stations across the United States, is being accused of concealing stations that it owns through a company called Concord Media Group. The allegation is that CC is using Concord Media as a front, and doesn't count those stations in its ownership totals, according to a petition filed at the FCC by David Ringer.

Ringer is a resident of Chillicothe, Ohio, who buys radio advertising.

Among other allegations, according to the petition:

• Concord Media lists its corporate headquarters as 200 East Basse Road, San Antonio Texas -- the same address as the corporate headquarters of Clear Channel.

• Clear Channel, which hopes to buy WKKJ/Chillicothe, already runs the station through Concord Media even though the station is currently owned by Secret Communications. Additionally, the petition states that CC claims to own no other stations in the area when in fact it owns outright three of the four and already runs the fourth.

"Not only should the FCC deny (the application to buy WKKJ), but also the FCC and the Justice Department should seek to uncover and remedy the anticompetitive actions of Clear Channel," the petition says.

In unrelated (but in my opinion very good) news, Clear Channel posted a $232 million loss for the third quarter of 2001.

Date Set

George Putnam returns this Monday to the Los Angeles airwaves. Hear him on KPLS (830 AM) weekdays at noon.


Copyright © 2001 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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