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Sirius XM Contests EAS Regulation

Seeks waiver until it can develop technical solution

Are the FCC’s rules about weekly and monthly EAS testing applied fairly across the broadcast spectrum? Sirius XM thinks not.

The satellite broadcaster has requested from the FCC a limited, 30-month waiver of any obligation it may have to transmit the EAS codes and attention signals on its compressed channels in a manner that would activate the emergency alerting equipment of other EAS participants. It filed the motion Monday in the FCC’s ongoing review of EAS rules, Proceeding 04-296. Thirty months is the minimum amount of time Sirius XM claims it would need to develop, test and implement technical solutions that can address the issues it raised in an earlier petition.

That petition also discussed Sirius XM’s commitment to emergency communications and explained that certain EAS testing rules adopted in the order subject satellite radio and its listeners to more stringent requirements than those imposed on direct broadcast satellite (“DBS”), cable television or terrestrial broadcasters.

The satellite broadcaster also noted that a limited number of satellite radio channels on the XM platform use compression technology to maximize efficient use of spectrum, which may prevent EAS codes and attention signals transmitted on these channels from activating the EAS equipment of other EAS participants. This technological limitation impacts national (rather than state and local) EAS alerts.

Sirius XM said it has committed to working with the commission during the requested waiver period to determine whether any other EAS participant may be monitoring a compressed Sirius XM channel and, if so, to make any such participants aware of alternatives that will ensure that their equipment is activated in the event of a national EAS alert. It said it has “no reason to believe” that any EAS participants monitor a compressed XM channel, and that as part of its arrangement with FEMA, Sirius XM designed and provided 108 EAS receivers for PEP stations and state emergency communications offices. It said it is not aware that any other entities in the EAS network monitor Sirius XM for national alerts.

An earlier petition to the commission sought relief from weekly and monthly tests owing to the unique way Sirius XM’s approximately 150 channels are programmed. Since there are no commercials or other natural breaks in program content, the weekly and monthly tests must interrupt talk or music content in a way that Sirius XM called “intrusive.”

Here is a link to Sirius XM’s motion and its summary of the background of the case.