Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl assault on the sensibilities of the American viewing audience began a chain of events that includes the FCC and Congress cracking down on broadcast “indecency,” which is jeopardizing the careers of Howard Stern and shock jocks from coast to coast. Howard, in particular, is whining vociferously about this, say in effect: “If I can’t be indecent, I don’t have a show.” Okay, and this should upset me why?
Anyway, the obvious answer for both “personalities” who feel constrained by FCC broadcast standards and audiences who seek this brand of entertainment, is satellite radio, which is unregulated by the FCC, and which appears poised to take off as a mass medium:
- Operators like Sirius satellite radio offer channels covering everything from bluegrass music to professional hockey.
It says its output is far more diverse than traditional US radio, which has become corporate and homogenous.
A sophisticated space control centre monitors three satellites 24 hours a day, as they beam down programming all over the US.
“It is a digital signal, which allows us to get 100 channels down,” said Christopher Croom, director of orbital operations at Sirius Satellite Radio.
“There’s no static, it’s not like you’re going to go out of contact and lose the station, or another station starts to interfere. It’s digital quality and it’s crystal clear to whoever’s listening to it.”
At its launch in 2001, satellite radio was targeted only towards motorists. It was the first time long-distance drivers in America were able to enjoy the same uninterrupted radio station for days at a time.
….”We love our cars, we’re very particular about our cars, they’re a personal extension of ourselves, so we’re involved in what goes on in the car,” said Mary Pat Ryan, executive vice-president of marketing at Sirius.
“That’s why satellite radio, which provides all the choices inside the car, is perfect for the American marketplace.”
The other major player is XM satellite radio, which has two satellites in space which also beam down more than 100 channels of content.
But the technology offered from both companies comes at a price. Subscribers first pay for a radio receiver, then have to fork out $9.99 or $12.95 per month to receive content.
Perhaps this is one reason why consumer uptake was slow to begin with.
“No-one thought that people would pay for television, no-one thought that people would pay for water,” said Chancellor Patterson of XM.
“Our experience has been that people are more than willing to pay if you give them high quality content and a high level of service, where you literally never lose the signal driving from coast to coast, and in your home.
“We expect that, by the end of this decade, we will have more than 25 million customers.”
Both companies recently overcame a major obstacle to subscriber growth with the introduction of portable receivers that can be taken from the car and into the home.
Consumer interest has certainly increased in the past few months. Sirius now has more than 250,000 people listening, and XM has about 1.5 million. [BBC]
Plenty of room for Howard and his ilk and everyone is happy.