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Hazlett: Satellite Radio Should Be Allowed to Go Local

Hazlett: Satellite Radio Should Be Allowed to Go Local

A former FCC chief economist says satellite radio should be free to program locally. In an online commentary for Slate, Thomas Hazlett, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, says the commission should “scrap its absurd rules for satellite radio.”
“So long as satellite radio omits community news, weather, traffic and sports, its march to financial success will be uphill,” he writes.
“Airing local programs nationwide” – which the satellite services are beginning to do – “is a good start, but it’s a remarkably inefficient solution because it soaks up precious channels – and satellite operators are allotted only so much bandwidth,” he writes.
“There are, after all, about 269 local radio markets. Squeezing an extra 15 or 20 channels onto the available bandwidth is one thing, but providing more slots for local news becomes very expensive very fast.
“What makes these inefficiencies particularly grating, though, is that existing technology and infrastructure would allow scores of cities to enjoy multiple full-time local news channels via satellite. This smarter way to distribute local content on satellite radio would employ the repeater stations already in use.”
Hazlett argues that FCC regulations now serve mainly to spare incumbent broadcasters the effort of competing with satellite rivals.
“The notion that traditional broadcasters deliver idiosyncratic menus closely tailored to local audiences is a quaint one. Nationally syndicated content has become the order of the radio day, and satellite programming is, if anything, less cookie-cutter than its earth-bound analogs.”