Sirius offers to fix overpowered radios


To comply with its agreement with the FCC, the Sirius side of Sirius XM has been notifying subscribers that the company will, at no charge, modify satellite radio receivers that violate FCC power rules and may interfere with other people’s FM receivers. The agreement to deal with the over-powered units was a minor sidelight to the FCC’s approval of the merger of Sirius and XM, which was also conditioned on the companies making a $20 million contribution to the US Treasury and taking action on correcting a number of terrestrial repeater violations by both companies. Sirius previously admitted that its employees had encouraged manufacturers to produce the devices that violated FCC power limits and they were pulled from the market.

Since the default setting on the offending units is 88.1 MHz, most of the reported interference has been to stations in the reserved noncommercial band, both public radio stations and religious non-commercial stations. Many of those stations and their organizations had called on the FCC to order a recall of the over-powered units. No such recall has been ordered and the action taken by Sirius XM falls well short of recalling the units.   

“Dear SIRIUS Subscriber,” the notice reads, “Your SIRIUS radio contains an FM transmitter that allows it to operate wirelessly through your car FM radio.  We have determined that the output of this transmitter exceeds the limits established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). As a result, the unit may interfere with the performance of radios operating in areas adjacent to your radio. There are no health or safety concerns associated with this issue.” The latter sentence was in bold, which would appear to emphasize that there is no need for the recipient to do anything.

Each of the four solutions offered would turn the wireless unit that was purchased into a wired unit.

RBR/TVBR observation: We have to wonder whether many subscribers will bother to make the modification. Sirius has not branded it a “recall” and even official product recalls tend to elicit limited consumer response. The over-powered unit works fine for the person who has one in his/her car. Why would they care that it emits too much power and may broadcast Howard Stern’s show to some stranger driving nearby listening to their local NPR or Religious station?