Media Access Project has asked the Federal Communications Commission to postpone its review of broadcasters' complaints about XM Satellite Radio's local traffic and weather reports until the agency has wrapped a broader review of how well commercial stations are fulfilling their obligation to serve local communities' programming needs.
Broadcasters complain that XM's service will steal audience and threaten radio stations' ability to survive, thus threatening the existence of locally originated programming and the FCC has asked for comment on the NAB's request to rule the service in violation of XM's charge to be a nationally focused service.
But before the FCC judges whether XM is hurting locally originated programming, the FCC must first decide how well broadcasters are providing those local services, MAP and other advocacy groups said Monday.
Last fall, FCC chairman Michael Powell launched a round of field hearings to gain information on broadcasters' track record of local service and he is expected to launch a formal inquiry into the issue soon. "Among the unresolved issues is whether local commercial radio has been transformed into a defacto national service," they told the FCC.
Common practices such as importing "voice tracked" recordings of DJs from out-of-town markets and corporate playlists appears to have diminished radio broadcasters' commitment to localism already, they say. If the commission doesn't put the XM review into abeyance, it should declare that satellite radio operators' have the right to provide local content. "It is difficult to imagine how it serves the public interest to foreclose additional, albeit limited, opportunities for locally oriented content when terrestrial radio is increasingly failing to provide local service," the groups said.