XM’s Local Traffic, Weather Plan Roils NAB

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Just two weeks after the National Association of Broadcasters triumphantly announced that XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. had agreed not to offer local programming, the upstart company threw broadcasters for a digital loop by announcing Wednesday that it will offer local traffic and weather reports beginning in March.

NAB president Eddie Fritts called the announcement, made at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, "an appalling back-door attempt to bypass" the FCC’s intent that XM be a national rather than local service. He said the announcement also "violates the spirit" of a Dec. 23 NAB/XM agreement that XM’s terrestrial repeaters will be used only to fill gaps in signals, not for adding local service. "NAB will explore the legality of XM offering this program service," Fritts added.

XM chief executive Hugh Panero said the company will roll out XM Instant Traffic & Weather channels in 21 markets this year. The first 15 will receive service in March: New York City; Los Angeles; Washington; Dallas-Ft. Worth; Chicago; Houston; Detroit; Philadelphia; Phoenix; San Francisco; Tampa-St. Petersburg and Orlando, Fla.; Baltimore; Pittsburgh; and St. Louis. Introductions in Boston, Atlanta, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Seattle and San Diego will follow later in 2004.

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