Washington - Mar 5, 2002 - XM Satellite Radio has received a patent from the United States Patent office (patent number US 6,347,216 B1) that describes "a method for communicating geographic specific services to a receiver in a satellite communications network." In short, the patent covers technology that would allow the XM terrestrial repeaters to broadcast information based on the receiver's location. This technology would provide a means for XM to deliver local information, such as data or commercials, to its receiver base.
The NAB filed an Ex Parte Communication with the FCC about the matter, stating that XM "has recently obtained a patent on technology intended to do precisely what XM told the Commission it would not - use its growing network of terrestrial repeaters to provide locally differentiated advertising and programming." It is no surprise that the NAB would file such remarks based on its stance against satellite radio as a whole and further opposition to any potential new entry into local program origination. In its letter to the FCC, the NAB cites many references by XM that the satellite broadcaster had repeatedly stated that it would never begin local program insertion into the terrestrial network.
XM's terrestrial repeaters have been built to support its satellite-based service. Broadcasters had fought the repeater network, but eventually said they can live with the repeaters as long as they don't support locally based radio services. On March4, NAB President Eddie Fritts said that he was "astonished" to learn that XM acquired the patent and added, "this development indicates that the FCC International Bureau has either dropped the ball, or that XM believes it does not have to play by the rules. Regardless, XM's lack of candor suggests it is time for FCC Chairman Powell and the individual FCC commissioners to put a halt to this ruse of a terrestrial repeater network."
XM noted that the patent filing was made as part of a normal business routine in an effort to keep technology that the company discovers. In a phone call placed to XM, Charles Robins, director of public relations, stated that XM completely agrees with the NAB: XM is a national broadcaster and has no interest in local program origination.
The fact that XM is developing its own technology is perfectly legal and carries no ill intent or deception. NAB has opposed the terrestrial repeaters used by both XM and Sirius for fear that they will compete with existing terrestrial radio stations for local audience. The satellites broadcasters' licenses do not allow local program origination on the terrestrial network.