This week’s print edition of Radio World (Jan. 14) contains a column by Editor Paul McLane, commenting on the apparent harmony between NAB and XM Satellite Radio over the question of terrestrial repeaters.
McLane spoke too soon; just after that issue rolled off the presses, controversy erupted anew at the CES show on this topic.
We weren’t the only ones; Whitney Radio President Bill O’Shaughnessy has been outspoken on this topic and had reacted positively to the earlier news of an apparent agreement. He has issued a followup statement this week taking XM to task for its “duplicitous, under-the-radar behavior.”
O’Shaughnessy’s text in full:
I’ve had a lingering feeling that the final nail was not yet driven into the coffin of XM’s relentless ambition, even with last week’s feel-good announcement of the joint filing and agreement regarding restrictions on their patented technology.
It’s like the Carnival of Venice. XM presents a different face to everyone and every entity with which it deals: one to the regulators at the commission; one to Wall Street; one to local zoning boards – even going so far as representing themselves as a “public utility” and having “permanent authority.”
They haven’t been candid or forthcoming with the commission, with poor NAB, representing all of us, and I suggest the American people. They say they’re a national service with no designs on local programming. But they are edging closer and closer. Now with that announcement out of Las Vegas, they’re at the door. They’ve also tried to navigate very skillfully between the International Bureau and the Mass Media Bureau of the commission, which regulates us.
The whole thing is further complicated by the fact that Clear Channel, the nation’s biggest terrestrial broadcaster, is hedging its bets with a very substantial investment in XM. Pity the poor NAB lobbyist trying to determine, trying to intuit what’s in the best interest of his client. How do you do that? What’s better for Clear Channel? What’s better for NAB? And Clear Channel has at least two seats on the NAB Board and they always have a “Mays family seat.” Clear Channel is working both sides of this perilous street and covering its bets.
I have to tell you, I don’t play the stock market, but last year when XM stock was down at about $12, I bought some of it. (This despite protestations from my wife Nancy that she would not welcome any suggestions from me – “The last stock you touted was Global Crossing!”) I’ve made about $18K on the damned thing.
This Star Wars threat to established AM and FM broadcasters has been driven by the marketing muscle of GM. We know that. But it has also, I suggest, been driven by a pattern of duplicitous, under-the-radar behavior by XM, which built a terrestrial network right under the noses of the FCC. And all the while, refusing to reveal its ultimate goals and real intentions.
I think NAB has been distracted from this threat by dissension in the television ranks. Radio is like Lazarus; you can’t kill it. But I’ve got to tell you, this guy Hugh Panero, XM’s CEO, is starting to read the Bible!