The FCC is asking whether the interoperable tuners required of merged satellite operation Sirius XM should include access to earth-bound AM and FM stations. The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council says the answer is a resounding yes.
MMTC argues that minorities missed out on the land rush for good signals at the dawn of broadcasting, and what catch-up there has been has been accomplished on second-rate facilities, “especially AMs with weak technical facilities.”
Stating its core argument, MMTC said, “By requiring satellite radio receivers to include reception capability that provides a seamless scan of analog AM and FM, HD Radio and SDARS, the Commission would ameliorate this historic residue of spectrum inequality by eliminating listeners’ perception that AM radio is a separate and unequal service.”
MMTC further argues that share-time licensing could make use of HD to get more diverse owners on the air; however, that avenue for increasing diversity would be at risk if satellite operators are able to simply keep AM, FM and HD off its dial.
It points out that the FCC mandate to increase diversity more than justifies its intervention into receiver requirements; and that the FCC has a duty to assure that Sirius XM does not “does not enter into third party relationships that would threaten minority radio ownership.”
RBR/TVBR observation: There is of course much more to this than promoting minority ownership. Satellite radio a national service, and is for the most part barred from providing local service. It would be incapable of having the kind of local staff presence to be of any use during an emergency even if it was allowed to tailor programming with terrestrial repeaters or by some other means. So it only makes sense that all receivers be able to pick up local broadcasts, , where vital and timely information will be available.