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Why (FM, Not XM) Radio Sucks 616

Posted by timothy
from the what-mercantilism-sounds-like dept.
wemmick writes "The Washington Post has an article "Can XM Put Radio Back Together Again?" which discusses the history of marketing FM radio, how XM could be different, and about Lee Abrams -- "the man who shackled FM radio to the tyranny of mass market research" and is now program director for XM."
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Why (FM, Not XM) Radio Sucks

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  • It's too late.... (Score:2, Informative)

    by SirDaShadow (603846)
    Clearchannel has a virtual monopoly on the AM sector and it's only a matter of time before FM will get acquired by the big interests...
    • Re:It's too late.... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by llamaluvr (575102)
      Here in Cleveland, Clearchannel owns just about every prominient station on the FM dial.
    • In my city (Dallas) ClearChannel is a FM game. They own 4 of the music stations here.
      • Theres a new station in dallas that Im pretty sure isnt owned by clear channel. KKDL started in october or november by playing 30,000 songs in a row without commercials, now they have like a minute of commercials an hour. Its a dance station (106.7) and I can never find the website. I like it a LOT more than anything else on the radio down here.
        • Same thing happened here in Kansas City a couple years ago. A new alternative/rock station, KRBZ, started by playing songs nonstop with no interruptions for about 3 days. About a week later they had about a minute of commercials every hour. Now a couple years later, they are just another alternative/rock station that plays 5-10 minutes of commercials every hour. I did a little bit of google searching and KRBZ is owned by Entercom. I'm not sure about KKDL, but I think they are owned by a different company.

    • Re:It's too late.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SubtleNuance (184325) on Monday January 20, 2003 @10:25AM (#5118346) Journal
      See this excellent article [salon.com] at Salon.com [htttp]

      the article is wrong when it says "tyranny of mass market research" caused radio to suck; two things happened A) as always, the soul has been sucked out of a vibrant social institute (Radio) by Profit-Motivated-Corporations. B) Payola facilitated this soul-sucking.

  • by BrianGa (536442) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @10:38PM (#5116263)
    You in the big cities and even you in the more heavily populated rural areas may not realize what this means. But ask anyone who has driven across Montana, Wyoming, and one or both of the Dakotas: There are literally miles and miles where you cannot get any radio at all. I'm not saying "nothing but talk" or "nothing but Hat Act music". I'm saying literally NOTHING.

    For this reason, I'm guessing that satellite radio receivers would be a big hit in Ryder/UHaul trucks. It would also keep them from having to reprogram the radio settings at every location.
    • I personally think that all "radio" as we know it is doomed. I don't listen to the radio. I would rather listen to something i know. Like a cd I own. It would best if they just put cd players in UHaul Trucks.
      • by goatasaur (604450) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @10:52PM (#5116333) Journal
        Don't be so pessimistic. There are still a lot of stations that play quality music. The problem is a dearth of good (and diverse) bands/groups.

        Here in St. Louis, there's a great alternative station, KPNT 105.7. They regularly play good music I haven't heard before. On my drive home from work, a program called "The Pit" is on, that reminds me of Headbanger's Ball on MTV. True catharsis is blasting Static-X after dealing with ignorant jerks all day.

        Like the state of popular music, radio is just starting to wake up after being knocked out by a blow to the head in the late 90s.
      • Radio has taken assaults before by thing much bigger than satellite radio.

        8 tracks/cassettes/cds/mp3s -- being able to record your own media made radio look obsolete. Has it died? Not even close.

        Television -- Although most reading this website (if not all) may not know it, people used to tune in to radio broadcasts much like people do prime time tv. For reference, research the performance of "War of the Worlds."

        Internet broadcasts -- The above two coupled with this surely meant doom for radio. Nope.

        So let me get this straight. If all of the above couldn't do it, you are telling me that a subscription only service is going to kill free radio? By free I mean listeners don't have to pay.

        Radio is the number one media period. More people are listening to radio at any given moment than all other media combined. You will be hard pressed to explain the doom of that type of consumer base.
        • by ReaperOfSouls (523060) on Monday January 20, 2003 @12:10AM (#5116678) Homepage
          Well in general XM would never be poised to kill radio. The basic fact of the matter is that radio is the way radio is, because most of the general public are lemmings. As the article states, the genres have gone to the crucible and spewing forth came 6-7 distinct flavors. These are there because the market for the programimg is.

          For those that actually, fall in to those 6-7 categories of listeners, FM is just fine. They would have no need or desire to pay $10 a month for 100 stations of which 90%-95% fall out of their listening tastes.

          XM really will find a niche in listeners who are disenfranchised by FM. I am sorry I cannot take another Creed song, less I go postal and slay all that I work with. My tastes sway a great deal and hardly ever fall in to a marketable segment. For me listening to FM is an utter waste of time. Just more time for the corporate masters to try and feed me marketing and lemming food.

          The point of XM is to do something that could never be done on a local level, putting together niche entertainment for a small segment of consumers. The idea is that you reap in all the small segment audiences an in theory they will add up to a profitable number total listeners. This will in no way affect the general public's radio consumption, since they can get their fill on FM. It is a direct analogy to cable television. Cable was in no way a threat to free television. If all you wanted was CBS, NBC or ABC and you could already receive it; there would be no reason to get cable. Though if you wanted say an all science fiction channel, tough luck, because it would be impossible for a local television station, to produce a niche channel for such a small audience. With the advent of cable, you could have your cake and eat it too. You could get your CBS, NBC, and your all science fiction channel. Cable's succes is due to not its ablity to reach people that you could via the free method on a local level, it is about creating a large enough audience pool that you can support creating programming to reach the other people that are removed from the 6-7 most marketable genres. All in all, Cable has augmented television, even more so in the age of digital cable. XM has an equal capacity to augment and improve radio in general.

          Local FM radio will always have its place. It most likely will change and adjust, but will never go away. What XM does have to compete with though is DMX and internet radio. Essentially FM is completely unphased by niche genre content provided for the reasons above, but XM is already competing with these other mediums.

          The only, yet marketable component of XM when compared with the other two, is that it is portable (only in cars and hefty "boom boxes"). If they really want to have any chance at winning the niche genre market they need to produce a "walkman" sized receiver.

          DMX is now provided by most digital cable providers as part of their basic service, so they may have a tough time dislodging them. Their best bet in the home market is to strike deals with cable providers to replace DMX with XM. With a deal such as that they could easily become a true household name and have a chance at getting the subscribership that they need to stay in business. All in all, FM is in no danger from XM, simply because they are pointing at completely different market segments.
    • by timothy (36799) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @10:47PM (#5116301) Homepage Journal
      It's almost worse when you can get *some* radio, but it's annoying radio. Driving in West Texas is like that. (Not all the time, but ... with enough time, "not all" can still mean quite a bit ;))

      Cracker Barrel (which is of course not in plentiful supply in the utter boonies, yet) has an insidious, effective plan to make sure you consume their maple syrup: rent (actually, sell but with an easy sell-back plan) audio books.I think it's about $2.50, if you return a tape within one week. It's worse than the addictive chemical in the Colonel's chicken.

      timothy
    • by sporty (27564) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @11:00PM (#5116372) Homepage
      Let me represent a small bit of NYC. We have a handful of stations. This is all we have on the FM band off the top of my head.

      107.5 - r&b
      103.5 - "dance"
      101.something - jazz
      100.3 - "current pop" music, what kids like
      98.1 - new skool r&b
      97.1 - old skool r&b
      96.3 - classical music
      95.5 - adult contemprary
      92.3 - "current rock"

      There are also about 3 or 4 latin stations. 0 competition. It really sucks. Hopefully, XM will be able to kill off FM completely and switch to a cheaper than cheap brand of "good" music stations. Or at least plentiful ones. Our statiosn don't even compete against each other. *puke*
      • by cscx (541332) on Monday January 20, 2003 @12:50AM (#5116844) Homepage
        Hopefully, XM will be able to kill off FM completely and switch to a cheaper than cheap brand of "good" music stations.

        Uh, no.

        Let's take a few of your examples:

        103.5 - "dance"

        That's WKTU. The US's #1 dance station. This is where all new dance music that comes over from Europe premiers. No kidding. If it's hot in the UK, you'll hear it first. Best rhythm-format station in the country, period.

        97.1 - old skool r&b

        That's Hot 97. Hot 97 is the premier Hip Hop radio station in America. It's where most of the hot new hip-hop artists today got their first airplay.

        92.3 - "current rock"

        WXRK - K-Rock. Used to be classic rock, back in the day. What makes this station special? The home of Howard Stern. Overall #1 morning show in the country, and still #1 in NY for the middle age male demographic, period.

        When "XM kills off" (as you say) Howard Stern completely in the morning drive, I'll personally be happy to drop a 50 pound brick onto my genitals. Why? Cause I'm 100% sure that'll never happen.
      • Here in Chicago, I'm noticing a trend with FM radio. If I like a station, within a year they switch the format to Mexican radio. Let me count the ways:

        1. 107.9 - 70's music
        2. 103.1 [radio-info.com] - 80's music
        3. 92.7 [energy92fm.com] - dance
        The one that really upsets me is the loss of Energy 92.7&5. That was the only Chicago area station that played decent dance music. Did we really need *another* Mexican station?

    • For this reason, I'm guessing that satellite radio receivers would be a big hit in Ryder/UHaul trucks.


      would satellite receivers work on a moving vehicle?

      (I'm thinking along the lines of pay TV satellite receivers, which need to be aimed fairly well).
    • I'm guessing that satellite radio receivers would be a big hit in Ryder/UHaul trucks.

      Professional truckers are talking about it, and I have seen receivers for sale in truck stops. There's a little technophobia related to the technology, but the price doesn't really seem to be a problem for them. I guess anything beats hearing "$10 trip to Mexico" spam on channel 19 broadcasted via 10 gillion watt CB transmitters just on the other side of the border.

  • by QEDog (610238) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @10:39PM (#5116267)
    Everyone knows that to make something sound cool you just put an X somewhere -X-Box -Xtreme Games -XXX (the action movie, not the rating, triple x triple the fun!) -XXX (the rating) -Windows XP -Ximian
  • by Savatte (111615) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @10:43PM (#5116282) Homepage Journal
    are all that's needed to show how bad FM radio sucks: Creed marathons.
  • Xm/Am/Fm/ClearM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by matth (22742) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @10:44PM (#5116286) Homepage
    I don't know.... it just doesn't work to have one station that you can listen to all the time. You miss locality... and people like that. ClearChannel is trying to do an XM like setup but with FM. They own tons of radio stations which they run all under one roof.. and they are all computer run. But, while the music may be there the localities.. and personalities are not. In addition, with XM you don't have the localness that you do with DJ Bob and the morning show talking about something that happened 1 town over the previous evening.

    Sooner or later ClearM (Clear Channel Radio) is going to fail as well... due to the fact that they are not marketing to the locals but the masses... they have tons of stations that all play the same ads.. and different music... just doesn't work that way.
    • Re:Xm/Am/Fm/ClearM (Score:3, Informative)

      by f97tosc (578893)
      I don't know.... it just doesn't work to have one station that you can listen to all the time. You miss locality... and people like that.

      Well, the customer who wants local stuff will clearly not be statisfied by XM. But I think that there is a significant customer segment, myself included, that does not care about local stuff. Personally I don't want to hear people talking, (be it local or not) and I think that the selection of music I get on FM is very limited.

      With XM I could get a much better selection of different music types, not to mention clearer sound and no commercials. I'll wait for the prices to fall a little further though...

      Tor
    • Re:Xm/Am/Fm/ClearM (Score:4, Insightful)

      by afidel (530433) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @11:12PM (#5116419)
      Clearchannel is not going to fail unless goverment decides to break it back up. Their radio stations are just a small part of the picture, they are trying and to a great degree suceeding in owning almost everything in music. Clearchannel wants to own the venues, the ticketing, the radio etc. This way they can "make" a band, then once they have created this group with their marketing machine they book them at their venues and using their ticketing system (tickmaster). From a profit standpoint they make a heck of a lot more than the bands they create.
    • you don't have the localness that you do with DJ Bob and the morning show talking about something that happened 1 town over the previous evening.

      ... and this is the very reason I would want XM radio to avoid having to listen to the troll-like morning windbags that think they are God's gift to entertainment. Just give me the music. I listen to a lot of CDs but I like to listen for new stuff once in a while without the ridiculous commentary.

    • Re:Xm/Am/Fm/ClearM (Score:5, Informative)

      by RocketScientist (15198) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @11:29PM (#5116503)
      I have XM.

      I really do miss the local stuff. Let's see...moron morning DJ's doing prank calls, commercials for local exterminators, commercials for local car dealers, commercials for local plumbers. Then the afternoon drive home, featuring the EXACT SAME SONGS played the previous day's drive home. Then there's our AM radio lineup. The only thing more boring than AM radio is baseball, and now that football season's about over we get to look forward to either baseball games or old geezers talking about baseball. Oh, and I also miss the talk show hosts that fall into either the poor Rush Limbaugh imitator category or poor Dr Laura imitator category. Gee...yeah, I really do miss that local content.

      OK, the only thing I miss is the weather. Traffic reports here are a joke anyway. Of course, I've got the ham radio (2M FM for storm spotting mostly) in my vehicle so I can just turn on 162.550 Mhz and listen to our local robot reading the weather forecast.

      At any rate, local content here sucks. Bigtime. I had totally given up on any local station except for NPR, and the extreme liberal bias of the commentators was annoying the heck out of me. And guess what, the NPR station here just had the national content, delivered via satellite. So, yeah, even the local station I listened to just rebroadcast satellite programming.

      I think the thing that gives XM it's edge is that they have 100 channels. You get 20 Mhz of bandwidth (a little less, actually) so you can fit in, what, a dozen, maybe a dozen and a half or so stations? So you get the variety of content. you get both a bluegrass and a folk station. You get a college and an alternative rock station (2 actually). Hip hop, rap, electronic. Whatever you want, they've got it somewhere.
      • by saihung (19097) on Monday January 20, 2003 @02:26AM (#5117181)
        Interesting post, and I agree with almost all of it, but just one point: if you think that NPR is "extreme liberal", then you haven't been paying very close attention.

        This is a big, big world with a huge spectrum of political thought, but it doesn't take much effort to be "left" of whatever the most popular view in the US is. Americans talked about how "liberal" Al Gore was, while the rest of the world shook their heads in disbelief. Heads up people: there are no nationally known politicians in the US who are on the "extreme left".

        If you think NPR is "extreme left" then I advise that you never leave your home state or visit your local communist bookstore because, honestly, NPR ain't shit.
  • by green pizza (159161) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @10:48PM (#5116306) Homepage
    ClearChannel killed the radio fan.

    In my neck of the woods (northern Texas) it's almost impossible to find an FM station that isn't part of clearchannel's network. Lots of ads, nation-wide contests, clearchannel-approved news/propaganda. Et cetra.

    Yuck.
    • by LostCluster (625375) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @11:19PM (#5116452)
      XM isn't gonna save you... ClearChannel invested in the company, and carries much of ClearChannel's network programming.
    • by modecx (130548) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @11:25PM (#5116486)
      The situation is the same in Colorado. What's worse than ClearChannel owning everything is the apparent commercial synchronization they pull off. More often than not, all of ClearChannel's stations seem* to play commercials at the same time. You go looking for some decent radio, and get an earful of TacoBell and car dealership commercials no matter where you turn the dial.

      *Just an observation of my own. I might be a paranoid freak, though.
    • by mblase (200735) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @11:59PM (#5116613)
      NPR [npr.org] is the best thing in radio today, as far as I'm concerned. I know that most of the public radio stations in existence are classical programming, but out of Peoria and Bloomington, IL I can get a superb jazz station. Five days a week I get news during rush hour and jazz in the morning and most of the evenings, plus blues and a little more variety on the weekends. The classical NPR station nearby plays jazz programming on the weekends as well. And except during their biannual fundraising drives, they're commercial-free. It's not like XM where I have dozens of choices of formats, but at least it's the one format I enjoy the most. I'd much rather pay them my $10/month than XM, if only because they're that much more likely to be around three years from now.
  • by ajuda (124386) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @10:49PM (#5116318)
    We saw something similar happen with cable stations. As channels begin to mature, they will try to go to the widest possible audience. Remember TNN? (The Nashville Network)? it used to have country stuff, now it's all wrestling and star trek. Remember Sci Fi? it used to be THE PLACE for geeks like us. Now their canceling Farscape and such. All niche markets will go mainstream for money. It will only take a few years until the people at XM decide to axe the stations with less popularity... after all they bring in far less profit than the average Brittany Spears station. Why oh Why won't she die? (or at least do some real porn?)
  • by Slurpee (4012) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @10:52PM (#5116328) Homepage Journal
    Is a question that is raised in the article.

    At first glance I thought "no way!". But then again, I thought the same way about pay-TV.

    What do others think?
    • by Triv (181010) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @11:34PM (#5116528) Journal
      I DO pay for radio, specifically I pay for NPR. They provide conent I'm willing to throw down a couple of bucks for and I'd o insane if they weren't around to remind me that not all media sucks. :)

      Triv
  • radio is dead (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ferro_Man (252684) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @10:56PM (#5116349)
    Reel Big Fish made a good point in their song "sellout"

    the radio plays what they want you to hear...
    they tell me its cool...
    i just don't believe it...

    FM radio is horrible. Around here, DJs have stopped taking request (probably because they are owned by clear channel). Music selection is poor, and they over play the good song to the point that you would rather go deaf than hear that song again. I can just burn a cd with the songs i want to hear as opposed to sitting through a crappy creed song in hopes that the next song will be one that i want to listen to

    Hopefully XM can save radio, before it is gone for good
    • Re:radio is dead (Score:3, Insightful)

      by beaverfever (584714)
      even if a station takes requests, your song won't be played if it's not in their playlist. Requests aren't an opportunity for fans to make suggestions to station management, it's an opportunity for management to provide a false sense of involvement to the listener. When it comes to Clearchannel and their ilk, even faking requests would be too much work on such a large and heavily automated system.

      that's just the way it is.

      radio is dead. get used to it already.

  • i used to be a radio DJ in Sri Lanka (TNL Radio [tnlradio.com]) and i think that XM MAY be a good idea IF they can please people.. by offering 100 channels (like on cable) they are trying to hit the niche markets.. and i think that the niche markets may buy into it.. if only for a while.. people started to buy cable so that they could get stuff they couldn't get in the "regular" channels and now cable has a niche channel for everyone.. but radio is a little different.. like they say in the article "the commercial FM dial has been essentially reduced to six musical formats: Pop/rock, hip-hop, country, classical, Spanish-language and variations on the theme of "adult contemporary," "... lets face it the channels have been split into that because that is what's popular.. sure XM may allow people to listen to Inuit whaling songs or Apache chants.. but will there be a market for them? or will they just all deteriorate into variations on the 6 standard themes?.. with the RIAA not giving publicity to "non standard" artists and also will they actually have a chance to show up on these channels? i am not sure how good this guy panero is.. but i have had to geal with his fallout.. even here in Sri Lanka we had TNL, a station with a great reputation as a rock station, go downhill into britney spears-esque pop.. the owner decided there was more of a market for it.. (what could we do.. his car, his petrol)... but we lost a lot of fans.. and a lot of us (me included) walked off.. now i listen to stuff i download off the net..

    i guess the point i am trying to make is this.. human nature being what it is.. XM will start off with a bang.. but soon deteriorate into yet another generic music station.. sure they won't have any advertising.. and maybe the choice will be marginally better.. but do you REALLY want to pay $150 + $9.99 per month to hear the Butts Treat Boys?.. remember MTV? and how they had to launch M2 so that people would play them for what they WERE supposed to deliver.. namely music?
  • We have already trashed one commercial band, namely, AM, when we could have easily fixed and extended it with AM stereo. (Which has some very nice qualities BTW.)

    Now are we going to give up on FM as well?

    I can see a lot of advantages to the satellite radio systems particularly in rural areas where you find little or no radio. So these systems have their place. However we still need local radio. Not the clear channel kind, but real local radio.

    Here in the Portland area we had a nice station in the early 80's called KSKD. They were innovative. Dolby FM (Which we all should be using today.), very low key DJ's, well defined commercial blocks, and an interesting playlist were all part of this local station. Many of my early musical tastes were formed while listening to the music played on KSKD and when they went off the air, I missed them.

    Listening to the radio while on trips used to be pretty interesting. As you went from place to place, the music was different. Each city seemed to have a station or two, like KSKD, that played what they thought was cool. Their listeners became loyal because the combination of music and its presentation was not to be found elsewhere.

    Companies like Clear Channel have done the public a dis-service in that they have ruined local programming in all station except community and educational ones.

    So for now, satellite radio is a new medium that shines right now. But will it go the way AM and FM did?
  • Moses (Score:5, Interesting)

    by limekiller4 (451497) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @11:04PM (#5116385) Homepage
    The first line of the article [washingtonpost.com] reads:
    "Heard avril [sic] Lavigne's 'Complicated' just a wee bit too often?"

    No. No, in fact I've never heard it. I have also never heard Who Let the Dogs Out.

    Ever.

    My friends still can't believe that one. Anyway, I digress...

    The article continues:
    "Who needs radio anymore?"

    Good question. Radio is nothing more than mental babysitting. It has no interest in your tastes, whatsoever; you conform to it (or as close as you can get) and not the other way around. Which are you, small, medium or large now get the fsck in, thanks.

    I'm not a purist and I'm not a music snob. I like pop-ish stuff. I've got Bjork, Oakenfold, BNL, Alanis, U2 and Sublime on my playlist. But I listen to this stuff because I want to and because I got sick of this so-called "prepped, packaged and served up in easy-to-digest bites, like tiny bits of Spam stuck on toothpicks" back around 1997. My tools, of course, was Napster and internet radio, but those are far from the only choices. They're just the ones I chose when I finally got fed up with it all.

    My apologies for the rant but I guess I'm sick of people lamenting the demise of radio as if it is, someplace, written in stone that good music must be carved up and delivered to you on the aforementioned toothpick. Andbody with a tape deck and a little bit of get-off-their-ass can find music that they like, record it, play it back and never have to listen to another advertisement ...if not hearing advert-saturated-sh*t-in-heavy-rotation is what you care for.
  • by ziriyab (549710) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @11:05PM (#5116390)
    Radio has gone from a letter you get from a friend to junk mail you get from a faceless corporation. Lee Abrams has been responsible for destroying something that was free and then selling us the original for a fee. Fuck him.
  • the answer is (Score:5, Interesting)

    by beaverfever (584714) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @11:11PM (#5116416) Homepage
    in a word... no.

    unfortunately, U.S. radio is dead, and XM is essentially U.S. Radio. Even if it doesn't suck now, it will soon enough. Program lists are chosen by consumer data, fed into computers and printed on 20lb white. Actually, they probably don't have to bother printing anything - feed the data and the machines will play it - humans just have to drop in the scripted patter from the cloned DJs every station manages to find. Anyways, record companies lean on the broadcasters for support, the broadcasters lean on the record companies for support, and they both end up not moving anywhere worthwhile, and besides they both like to play it safe. The result is playlists that have the same songs played day after day, month after month, from one city to the next. With very few exceptions there is nobody out there willing to take a leadership role, to break new ground, or *gasp* take any chances (chances are bad for business, after all) and not just take what the labels hand-feed them.

    If you're interested, you can listen in online at CBC Radio [www.cbc.ca] (Radio One or Radio Two) or BBC [bbc.co.uk] (1,2,3,4, etc., etc.) and find out what radio that isn't tied by umbilical cord to Big Business can be.

    • This reminds me of something funny I heard on a local FM "modern rock" station about a week ago.

      They just started playing a song, when it suddenly stopped playing. After 15 seconds or so of dead air, the DJs came on, complaning about the computer crashing and screwing things up. They tried to get it to play again, without success. Then, one of the DJ's started complaining about a "PCI bus device failure error" on a blue and white screen, and asking what the heck that meant.

      After another reboot, they seemed to get things going again - but wow, I didn't know they ran the whole music collection off a Windows NT/2000 box! Scary.
  • by autopr0n (534291)
    Please, they are run by the same damn people. XM is part owned by Clear Channel for god's sake.

    Hopefully in the future the Cellular/wi-fi networks will keep us connected to the internet all the time and we'll be able to listen to streaming radio in our cars.

    (btw, does anyone ever listen to the radio while they're not driving around? It's kind of weird. Oh well)
    • Re:Nope (Score:3, Informative)

      by martissimo (515886)
      No frigging kidding, the downfall of public radio has been the deregulation that has led to the dominance of the pay for play conglomerates like Clear Channel... and they want to suggest that a new pay for radio satellite network partially owned by this same conglomerate will be radio's saviour?

      Get a grip!

      XM is backed by a group of industry-leading strategic investors, including General Motors and Clear Channel Communications and DIRECTV, the leading radio and satellite companies in the United States

      Yay, Clear Channel to the rescue :P [iwarp.com]
  • Still the best FM radio station on the planet. Check them out here [cd101.com].
  • All this talk about Clear Channel owning way too many radio stations (which I agree) makes me think.

    Isn't XM owned by one company? I know they have a broader range of programming, but the potential for abuse is so ripe. If they got incredibly popular, they could pull all the same stunts that Clear Channel pulls today. Beware...
  • by SirDaShadow (603846) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @11:19PM (#5116448)
    XM uses 96kbit and a propiertary codec to send programming to the XM receivers...why can't they or someone else use something like ogg vorbis (very acceptable stereo sound at ~45kbps) and peercast combined with 802.11x(b,g,whatever)/CDMA/WISPs?

    • Because Slashdot's favorite buzzwords are not the solutions to all the world's problems.

      If only we could install Linux on this ear of corn, we could end world hunger forever! Unfortunately Monsanto already installed a proprietary kernel in it.

  • WKRP (Score:3, Funny)

    by Dr. Cody (554864) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @11:32PM (#5116520)
    What ever happenned to the days of good, honest record labels sending good, honest dj's good, honest album covers filled with cocaine.

    We don't need no corporation...
  • Wait. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PaddyM (45763) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @11:51PM (#5116584) Homepage
    Didn't video kill the radio star a long time ago?

    Seriously, what's the big disappointment in radio disappearing. I should listen to what IIII want to hear. Content on demand is the future. I don't need all these RADIO WAVES sending UNSOLICITED INFORMATION. If you think about it, the Radio Stations have been spamming our radios for years. And yet despite all this general dissatisfaction with spam, we don't see the disadvantage in that.

    But NPR is still important. That station can stay. Sending the NEWS over the radio is still important.
  • by zentec (204030) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .cetnez.> on Sunday January 19, 2003 @11:56PM (#5116606)
    That is preposterous. The FCC has determined that your tastes are better served by the media cartel of ClearChannel, CBS/Infinity and Viacom. If you're an urban radio fan, you have Radio One.

    You're simply un-American and a terrorist sympathizer if all you want is information about your local community, or music that isn't getting airplay because of elaborate plug-n-play schemes or being pulled from the dusty archives because the station ownership is promoting the concert in the next town.

    The FCC has your interests at heart. They realize that more common ownership is a good thing and is willing to take this a step further by again reducing ownership rules and even permitting television stations to own radio and newspapers.

    Think of the bargains that advertisers will see when they have a one-stop-shop for all of their advertising. Imagine the benefits of unbiased uniformed reporting that you'll get from radio, TV and newsprint. Why, there won't be nary any discrepancies to the news since it'll come from the same copy writer no matter the source of your news.

    The FCC knows best, trust them and you will see.

    Of course, the above is sarcasm. I spent over 13 years in the broadcasting industry. I'm still taking three showers a day in an attempt to get rid of the stench.

  • Support Public Radio (Score:5, Informative)

    by ego093 (462550) on Sunday January 19, 2003 @11:57PM (#5116608) Homepage
    I feel for people outside of the Los Angeles metro area. I understand that NPR everywhere else is like the skit on SNL. But in Los Angeles, we've been blessed with KCRW (89.9) - one of the most amazing and daring radio stations I've ever listened to. Not only have they turned me on to fantastic music that I'd never have heard of, but they also provide NPR during work hours to keep you informed. Plus, they have the best online services of any radio station I know. Need a change of pace? Check them out at http://www.kcrw.org.

    Yes, my wife and I both pay our memberships. It's just what you do when you believe in something.
    • I understand that NPR everywhere else is like the skit on SNL.

      No offense, but I think your mistaken on that.

      Minnesota Public Radio here in the Twin Cities is really really quite good. They have two stations, one that deals with music the other with pure news and human interest. I am primarily interested in news. I find the nightly BBC World Service broadcasts to be invaluable. Much news hits Britain days before it hits the US mainstream.

      MPR is also the ones responsible for bringing Garrison Keillor
      to the air... but nobody's perfect :(
  • by CashCarSTAR (548853) on Monday January 20, 2003 @12:17AM (#5116709)
    Radio tries to break things down into Genres. Which is fine and dandy I guess...but...but...lets face it..it just doesn't work for me. Whatever genre you like, you have favorites and not-so favorites. In fact, you more than likely have things you downright HATE. In even more detail, you may like some songs by an artist, but not others, even within the same album. The fact is the only programming that is truely satisfactory is that you do yourself. Furthermore, I want more than the singles. I want the album tracks, I want b-sides, I want LIVE music god damnit. That is what I want. The only way to get this is through doing it yourself. I use a MP3 CD player hooked up through one of those CD-Tape converters. With CDs filled with MP3s of my favorite acts divided into Eras with both b-sides and live songs, that is the way to ensure the programming I want.
  • Decentralize (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NFW (560362) on Monday January 20, 2003 @12:19AM (#5116715) Homepage
    I'm sitting here listing to a Shoutcast stream ofreally sweet music from bands I've never heard of and would never have found otherwise. I'm taking notes so I can buy their CDs and concert tickets. I'm thinking decentralization is what it takes to connect customers and musicians.

    I'm thinking market forces won't ever provide that anywhere near as well as "stations" run by people who simply love music.

  • by Powercntrl (458442) on Monday January 20, 2003 @12:35AM (#5116783)
    The semantics of what consists of popular music aside*, my problem with satellite radio is the subscription model and the requirement of specific reception/decoding hardware that resides in a single vehicle (unless you purchase another receiver).

    Satellite radio would be something I'd be interested in if it was more feature-rich and Internet enabled. Imagine a service with a Tivo-like reciever that is capable of storing songs, seeking new songs you might be interested in based on your past preferences and allowing you to build your own playlist.

    Imagine you can also access this service through the Internet and stream your music on your computer so inside your home or at work you can enjoy your music as well.

    Imagine the hardware isn't an in-dash reciever but a portable iPod-sized device. You can bring it with you if you happen to own more than one vehicle (which I do), or carry it with you like a Walkman(TM).

    That is a product and service I'd be happy to pay money for.

    * I enjoy a large percentage of current popular music. If you do not enjoy so-called mainstream radio, YMMV.
  • by linefeed0 (550967) on Monday January 20, 2003 @12:46AM (#5116832)
    Clear Channel is called Cheap Channel [cheapchannelradio.com] for a reason -- they like to cut costs everywhere. No live DJ's at many times, supposedly "local" information piped in as sound bites from out of town -- not to mention that artists need lots of payola [salon.com] to get their stuff on the air. Oh, lots of ads, too, just to make sure there's lots of money coming in to balance out the trickle going out. Great way for a company to make big profits; not a great way to have good radio.

    Why? In one word: monopoly. Not that they control everything, just enough to reduce the competition that federal laws about airwave allocation were supposed to provide. Their competitors are now desperate, not inventive. Used to be, not only could you not own 8 radio stations in a city, or 1000 across the country, you couldn't own any if the FCC determined your station was not fulfilling its public service obligation. You actually had to get your license renewed.

    Now Clear Channel themselves have claimed that owning more radio stations can allow them to diversify the genres more -- but this hasn't produced any interesting results in FM radio. In fact, almost everyone agrees FM radio has gotten worse over the last 5 years or so. So how is XM going to help things? It's great as another option, for those times there isn't anything good on FM. But forgive me if I don't see this duopoly being so hugely advantageous over a monopoly. They'll give you the music you "want" -- and not a note more. A triumph of marketing, a long-term serious loss for the listener.

    XM will never be able to make up for another potential casualty of Clear Channel (and fundi religious broadcasters, who are eligible for bottom-of-the-band licenses and silently eat away at the reception of struggling college stations) - regionalism in radio is good. Part of why travelling is fun in this country is local culture, even in this age of mcdonald's everywhere. XM can't give me the beach-blues station I heard in coastal South Carolina, the bluegrass segment on a (commercial!) country station in rural Virginia, or the variety of ethnic folk music and avant-garde rock on hundreds of college stations across the country. It's worth noting that of XM's 100 channels, the Post writer picked one with good, but very familiar music -- and that may be what XM is good for. The beauty of independent, college, and regional radio is discovery of new music. Not that this means XM is bad -- just that it won't save us from Clear Channel.

  • Conform! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Taos (12343) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:09AM (#5116927) Homepage
    During college, I spent two of my years as a minor DJ at the campus radio station, which was probably the most bizzare part of its history. College radio, as we all know, is the music snobs paradise. The students play off the wall bizzare shit, and the format is whatever the current DJ feels like playing. However, at KSU, right before I started, a graduate student took over control of the station and the first thing she did was organize it into a "modern rock" format station. For the most part, it was good. In the time I was there, the station became very highly regarded by the students, to the point that the old guard rock station in town changed formats to match us. They were stuck in the 80's rock (constant Poison!) and then suddenly started playing new bands to try and get some of their market back.

    Ok, fine great. The problem was, in an effort to make the station more like a real station, the graduate student controlling this mess enforced a series of strict rules and a rigid playlist. The station is now no better than the Clear channel crap that dominates the airwaves.

    Reading this article made me laugh because I witnessed this entire history of FM radio they describe over the course of my five years at school. It went from the playground of the stoners, to the perfect mix of a format guideline, but free dj's to the utter crap you hear on every station now.

    Strictly formatted radio, mostly brought on by Clear channel type monoliths, is the evil that is ruining, not just radio, but all of music in america. Have a guideline for the DJ's, but let them expand out of it. Expose the listeners to something different. Play something that they haven't heard in a very long time. Throw on the Smiths just to play with someone's head.

    The first thing I always did at the start of my shift was go down my playlist for the day and cross out everything by the Kottonmouth Kings. IMHO the worst thing to hit the radio in the last 5 years. I tried to fill in the crap I hated with listener requests, but on slow days, I had to fill in my own stuff.

    On the off days, when students weren't around, the station would go to an automated playlist (a computer with a giant database of mp3s). Immediately, our listenership dropped like a rock. There was no life to the station, and this is why I don't see XM taking off.

    Where am I going? DJ's are what's important. The listeners like having someone familiar on the air. Each DJ used to have their own flavor. Mine was a little broader, but my selection leaned to harder rocking songs. People liked the interaction with the DJ, and it got listeners. Calling in made them feel like part of it. Dj's are your friend who introduce you to this crazy new band who has a different sound. You should see them live!

    I love music. I go see small live shows whenever I can (unemployment has killed this pastime unfortunately). Radio today has me very pissed off because nobody is introducing me to new stuff. I'm completely on my own.

    And right now I'm listening to RL Burnside - Ass Pocket of Whiskey
  • Why XM sucks (Score:3, Informative)

    by Guppy06 (410832) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:58AM (#5117098)
    With an AM/FM radio, you get spoon-fed your daily dose of Clear Channel for free. With XM, you pay for it.

    I'm sorry, but with all things being equal, I'm not going to pay money to the provider that carries Clear Channel. They're why I'm trying to get away from terrestrial radio to begin with.

    "Bringing you the hits you've heard too many times during the 80's, 90's and today!"
  • College radio! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by idiot900 (166952) on Monday January 20, 2003 @02:02AM (#5117113)
    Not necessarily *all* FM radio sucks. Let's not forget college radio! If you think it sucks, then at least it's something *different* that sucks, and you had the chance to hear something new.

    And now, a shameless plug for the station I am involved with, where you don't often hear something that ClearChannel would play: KWUR 90.3FM [wustl.edu]. Since you probably aren't within our rather small broadcast radius (10 watt transmitter) you can listen to our MP3 streams.
  • by raam (206445) on Monday January 20, 2003 @02:05AM (#5117129) Homepage

    Okay, so I have an Alpine XM unit on a CDA-7878. First off, it is incredibly entertaining. You WON'T always find what you are looking for, but you will find something and it doesn't suck like FM programming. On the other hand, XM has a lot of problems. First off, the compression screws with the music a little; enough to be noticed, but probably not enough to matter to most. Second, there is a focus on music and not on content, necessariyl, which manifests itself in three ways: 1, the commercials for the stations are long and goofy/magoo/stupid; 2, the deejays are loud, obnoxious, and just as stupid as fm deejays most of the time; 3, the talk radio that is there is nice, but where is NPR/PRI that Sirius has? In reality, if you get this, you will probably listen to, maybe, five channels, regularly. I am starting to get fed up with the track that XM has taken. I see no more intelligence than the market research dictates there must be. Something for everyone it is not...quite. However, I like the idea of sat radio enough to, maybe, give Sirius a try if I ditch the XM. XM has certainly made the idea of no commercials worth the extra $3. I REALLY don't think they should have enlisted such an aged fellow to lead XM.
  • by Nemus (639101) <astarchman@hotmail.com> on Monday January 20, 2003 @02:07AM (#5117136) Journal
    I live in the Nashville, TN area. For those of you who don't know what that means, let me explain:

    countrycountrycountrycountry-pop/country-countryco untrycountrycountrycountrycountry-pop/countrycount rycountrycountrycountrycountrycountry-pop/country- countrycountry

    We have three stations that play a different style of music:

    102.9 the Buzz-Basically, pop-rock, emo, and eminem; like the article says, what all the teeny-boppers are listening to

    105.9 the Rock: A pretty cool station. They play classic rock, and by that I mean ACDC, Guns n Roses, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, that kinda stuff. The kinda stuff that you and your parents can listen to together without embarrassment.

    101.1 the Beat: They say they're a rap station, but mostly R & B or piss poor Djs trying to spin R & B.

    All three of these are owned by ClearChannel btw

    All in all, not a lot of selection. So most of my time is spent on webradio, like digitally imported, or the local Vandy station, which occasionally plays electronica. I play CDs in the car, but sometimes you really do wanna be surprised by whats played, so I like radio, but, sadly, there is no such thing a electronica radio.

    Thats why the first thing I'm doing when I get a new job is getting an XM receiver. I wanna be doing 100 Mph down the interstate and hear techno I've never heard before. I wanna hear ICP and other psychopathic records artists, and I wanna hear badass, shoot ya just to watch you die old country and classic rock. Hell yeah people will pay. I will.

  • The ads, the ads! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Stormie (708) on Monday January 20, 2003 @02:23AM (#5117173) Homepage

    Damn.. do American FM stations really play 18-24 minutes of ads per hour, like that article says??

    Why would anyone bother listening to the radio if it's like that? Wouldn't you rather have silence than 4 ads for every song??

    • Yes (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SuperKendall (25149)
      I drive around with the radio off a lot of the time for just this reason... or I start playing a CD when the ads come on and forget to turn it off for a day or two. Somehow even a single looping CD offers more variety than most local radio stations...

      That said, there actually is a very good local public station in Denver (KUVO) that has all kinds of good jazz. I listen to them pretty often (though I am not always in the mood for what they are playing) and try to support them with a donation every year, so at least there is an island of eclectic music in the sea of drek that is FM.
  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Monday January 20, 2003 @02:40AM (#5117231)
    I think that the death of AM was a good thing, because there is some interesting and funny stuff going on in those bands. In any case, it's certainly eclectic. As I was driving the other day, listened to a show on AM called "Fear the Lord", whose premise was that we aren't afraid enough of the wrath of God. I'm serious! It was funny as all hell.

    Anyway, I hope that the death of FM will mean that reserving a band will become cheaper, and so more weird and interesting shit will start happening on FM. I want like 3 channels of NPR, because though most of their original content is awesome, some of the filler is too dumb to listen to. And really, how expensive is it to record and rebroadcast interviews with interesting people? That's the sort of stuff NPR does well, and they are the only reason why I would ever turn on the radio at home. I hope that some non-publically-funded radio would try to compete with NPR for this sort of turf (like the Discovery and History Channels on cable compete with PBS) but before that happens, the barriers to entry have to be lower. That's why I'm praying for the day that music gets removed from FM and space opens up for real interesting stuff.

    Until then, at least there's college radio!

  • by bigberk (547360) <bigberk@users.pc9.org> on Monday January 20, 2003 @02:45AM (#5117247)
    I'm usually quite rude to telemarketers, but this time I thought I'd grab my opportunity to skew the "scientific survey" results.

    This lady phoning from Texas or something was really interested in my radio listening habits. She kept asking me about these annoying, obnoxious stations (the ones with the r&b music the 16 year old girls seem to love so much).

    I kept talking about stations that weren't one of her options on her on-screen list and I think she was getting irritated. But the whole experience made me realize how shitty commercial FM radio is, and how grateful I am for Campus radio stations, Volunteer and Community run stations and especially for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

    All of which, luckily, I have access to here.
  • by Mulletproof (513805) on Monday January 20, 2003 @03:09AM (#5117323) Homepage Journal
    Formatted. Prepackaged. Spam on a toothpick. Ingenuity is gone for these people. Infact, if I may expound a little, it's exactly what's happening to the record companies. It's the total, complete and utter lack of ingenuity that keep people from caring if they live or die.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 20, 2003 @03:45AM (#5117410)
    ...why they don't have promotions? Say, subscribe for a year or two and get the receiver and adapters for free or at a reduced rate, like they do with satellite TV. Joe Potential-Customer might be wary at the steep price, but offer instant rebates or the like and he'll join faster than you can say MSN. I suppose they don't have as much money to throw at their investment as MS, but it would probably do them better in nabbing customers, I would think. I read through the /. comments and I see that the primary reason nobody wants this system is the expensive receiver price.

    Damn you, 1996 Telecommunications Act! If it wasn't for that, there might not even have been a NEED for XM. Benefits the citizens my ass. I'd almost rather listen to the heavy 60 freeway traffic on my way to UCR than listen to one of the three or four songs they play on the radio, but the FM stations are a step up(?) from the white noise of a random unused station, and I don't like listening to screaming and engines and all of that, so I'm stuck. I swear I get more unique music from OC Remix than from those stations, and the former is based solely on derivitive works (of video games, no less)!

    And another thing, what's with all the DJ talk? Are they so cheap they don't want to pay royalties to crank out another hour of songs they play twenty times a day anyway? What would it cost them, another ten bucks? They HAVE to get a huge bulk rate on these things.

    There is more to rock than Aerosmith, Queen and the Beatles, or at least my dad tells me, but you'd never know from the playlists they have. Granted, I'm young and all, but I DO like that style music, and it grows very old after a couple weeks(!), but they keep playing it. With the "six major genres," that gives me twelve weeks of variety, which include songs I've probably listened to anyway.

    There, I'm done. Please don't kill me for my ignorance, but the point is I like v-a-r-i-e-t-y; the kind that's found in P2P networks, webcasts and college radio. Sure, a lot of it is crap or novelties or foreign or porn, but at least it's different.
  • by NeuroManson (214835) on Monday January 20, 2003 @08:03AM (#5117908) Homepage
    I remember watching as FM radio evolved over the last 25-30 years. When FM started out, nobody used it except for a few odd college stations or classical music stations. Most AM stations were mainstream in those days, and were reluctant to switch over, due to AM's wider broadcast area, and most stations already had the hardware, no need to upgrade in the eyes of the suits.

    Also, AM radios were considerably cheaper than an FM stereo Hi-Fi (not to mention there being no portable FM recievers that were truly compact until 1979-1980, when the first walkman came out).

    At around the same time, some NYC stations were managing to broadcast in stereo on the AM band, but by then it was too late, FM was starting to infiltrate the market. More stations began buying into FM broadcasting.

    The college stations, depending on the city, were often running the most original and unique music out there (such as WLIR in NY, running old school punk, synthesized and otherwise non mainstream music in a Debbie Gibson world- The only local station to play Dead Kennedys' "MTV Get Off The Air!"). In fact, between the times I listened to WLIR as a teenager, and "discovered" file sharing, over 10 years had passed where I had no idea what kind of new music was out there.

    The openness of FM radio has become a thing of the past, however, thanks to payola and media corporations. In fact, it's the only reason I hope XM satellite radio catches on, because once they take their focus off of FM, maybe more college/amateur/independant broadcasters will have a chance once again to bring in music that appeals to the rest of us.

    On a sidenote, however, another benefit to making music available that isn't on mainstream radio, is that punk and alternative music of the 80s made people THINK. Has anyone noticed that as more FM stations hav gotten to the point they are at today, that the public is more apathetic and uninspired? Look at previous peace rallies, and you'll note that it's been dwindling down considerably, starting 1988 and reaching an all time low of approximately a million total attending today.

    Music used to be one of the great motivators of activism, so what happens when the corporations control your motivation?
  • by tgd (2822) on Monday January 20, 2003 @08:23AM (#5117949)
    I know this is just one comment buried in a pile of hundreds, repeating the same thing as many on here, but its worth saying. If you find yourself wondering why someone would pay $13 a month to listen to the radio, I bet you're the same person who asks why someone would pay $13 a month for Tivo since all they're getting is a program guide.

    I'll tell you, when the bills come due at the end of the month, the only two I have no issues at all paying are Tivo and XM.
  • I travel a lot... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wowbagger (69688) on Monday January 20, 2003 @09:16AM (#5118095) Homepage Journal
    I travel a lot - my preferred mode of vacationing is to drive somewhere - usually about 2Kmiles/trip.

    As a result, I keep my car in top trip-ready shape at all times - tire tread a bit thin? Replace it. Keep the glass clean, keep the cooler chest ready, have a set of toothbrush/hair brush/deodorant/etc. ready to save on packing. Have trips planned out so that if an opportunity presents, I roll.

    One of the TOP items on my list is maintaining my car's MP3 player - 30G of (legally owned and ripped from my own CD's/tapes) music, books on tape, stories, comedy routines, etc. There have been times when it's been down, and I've had to travel, or when I've had to travel without it (by train, plane, or rental truck).

    I forget just how bad broadcast radio is until I have to travel without my music. Then I am shocked back into reality.

    It's not just the fact that the DJ's seem to think the reason we listen to the radio is to hear them - if I wanted to hear self-important idiots blather, I'd listen to children's band (chicken band, or CB). If I wanted to hear a station claim "... KRAP, bringing you another 90% music hour...." (which they do by overlaping the songs enough to have 54 minutes of songs played in 30 minutes of wall-clock time), or if I wanted to hear commercials... well, a 9mm Hydroshock to the roof of the mouth would be a preferable "cure" to that brand of insanity.

    I have a saying - "Anytime the consumer and the customer are not one and the same, you are going to get crappy quality." Dogs don't buy dog food, so the actual flavor does not matter - can you convice the owner to buy the food? The consumer of broadcast radio is the listener, but the customer is the advertiser. Advertisers don't care about the quality of the music, only that the station in question has a listenership, which you can get by being a monopoly as readily as by being a quality station.

    My advice to anyone is:

    1) Get some form of portable, hard drive based MP3 player - a Neo, an iPod, roll-your-own, whatever.
    2) Load it up with your music, but even more importantly, with non-music stuff - buy the HHGTH series on CD, and rip that. Get your old Bill Cosby/George Carlin/* albums, and rip them (and for voice comedy, you can rip to a pretty low bitrate). Get books on tape/disk, and put them on. Hell, record the audio off old Star Trek (TOS, not TNG/DS9/Crapager) - ST-TOS was more like a radio show with pictures than TV.
    3) Get a weather band receiver for weather reports, a chicken band or amateur receiver for road conditions (for the latter, be licensed if you are planning on transmitting).
    4) Mentally present the "digitus impudus" to the radio stations you see advertised along the side of the road.
  • Killer app (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zzyzx (15139) on Monday January 20, 2003 @11:17AM (#5118584) Homepage
    Ok no one would read this because it's too far down, but the killer app for XM would be for sports fans. I'm a Seattle Mariners fan. I'd pay $10 a month to know that wherever I was in the country, I could pick up the game... and if it's boring I could switch to see how other games were going. The sports market is huge and I bet this would sell more XM boxes than anything else.

I find you lack of faith in the forth dithturbing. - Darse ("Darth") Vader

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