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Airwaves: November 16, 2007

Taking XM For a Ride

I've had Sirius Satellite Radio for almost three years now, and for the most part have been very happy with the service. Oh, certainly there are things I don't like about it -- the way they give channels over to single artists for a (far too) long period of time, ruining the '70s Channel four hours a day by having Barry "Greg Brady" Williams as a DJ, and some of the song selections -- but overall, I am very satisfied.

Yet outside of hearing it on my computer or at my brother's house, I have never spent much time with competing service XM. Until now.

My wife Jean recently bought a new Buick Enclave, and it comes with three months of XM included in the radio package. Over the past month we've been listening quite a bit to XM as we test out and break-in the new car. Here are my observations:

• Jean loves XM's Flight 26 channel. I don't think she'll ever give it up. Ever.

• The services are very similar, but still different. Sirius tends to operate more like a network of traditional radio stations, many with air personalities. XM seems to have fewer DJs, and sounds more like a CD or an iPod.

• Both services go through periods of playing absolutely dreadful songs; both also go through periods of brilliance.

• Sound quality on most channels is similar. It's not perfect, though, and there are people who prefer one over the other ... or hate both. Currently, I think XM sounds a bit better overall.

• Both services send song and artist information to the radios, but XM seems able to send fewer letters, so song titles and artist names get cut off more often than on Sirius.

• The variety on both is absolutely amazing. Yet out of the more than 100 channels, you tend to listen to a handful, much like traditional radio stations in Los Angeles.

I think anyone could be happy with either service. I still tend to prefer Sirius; Jean, on the other hand, would probably pick XM. Interesting, as she is the big Howard Stern fan, and Stern is only heard on Sirius. Looks like I'll have to have both subscriptions, for at least a while.

He's Back

Don Imus, who was fired by WFAN/New York and his syndicator six months ago after he referred negatively to the women's basketball team at Rutgers University, will be back on the air via WABC/New York beginning December 3rd. Syndication is planned, though nothing has been announced.

From the beginning of his firing until now, I still cannot believe so much has been made of a personality who really wasn't a presence in the talk radio arena. Sure he was known in New York as the star of WNBC ... years ago ... but outside of his home turf, he really hasn't done much. His syndication deals tended to be on smaller low-powered stations, and even the high-powered onces like KLAC (570 AM) showed no ratings with Imus in the Morning. Even his ratings in New York had been on a decline for years, down about half over a ten-year period.

I also never figured out why everyone complained that his on-air remarks were racist without ever picking up on the more blatant sexism.

Yet the national press picked up on the supposed racism and made Imus a true superstar. This may ironically benefit him greatly. No word yet if any local stations are interested.


Copyright © 2007 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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