TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Satellite Radio as "Broadcast Audio Internet"?

Satellite Radio as "Broadcast Audio Internet"?

Sat, 12 Mar 2005 13:31:06 -0800

Random thoughts re satellite radio (as it might be, not necessarily as
it is):

1) Think of a satellite radio system in technical terms as basically a
couple of hundred one-way high-audio-quality phone lines coming into
your house, office or car, no matter where you are. If you buy the
service and get your radio authorized, you can listen to any line you
want, any time you want. There is however no way for any line to
"ring your phone" individually, and no way for the system to determine
what you're actually listening to, or to charge you on an individual
basis for listening to any individual line.

In other words, it's kind of a one-way broadcast audio Internet.

2) Suppose a commercial firm wanted to build and provide such a
satellite radio service with about the same technical capabilities and
the same current or likely magnitude of customer base as XM or Sirius
at present or in the foreseeable future, but with no content ­­ in
other words a kind of "common carrier" service ­­ with income derived
from (a) listener subscriptions and (b) selling channels to content

What might this cost? ­­ that is, what might be a subscriber's monthly
"phone bill", and what might be the cost to a content provider to buy
a channel, just to cover the operating costs of the system, plus a
modest profit for the provider?

3) Obviously this depends on how the system's costs are allocated
between these two sources, but might the subscriber's cost be about
the same as XM or Sirius subscription rates at present, and channel
costs to content providers be maybe thousands or tens of thousands per
month, not millions per month?

4) That would be an interesting system. "Broadcasters" ­­ aka
"content providers" ­­ could purchase channels, provide content (e.g.,
music), and cover their costs of buying the channel and generating the
content by selling advertising, although without further technical
developments they'd have trouble determining just how much audience
they were delivering to their advertisers, and thus what they could
charge for the ad slots on their channel.

5) But if the channels were cheap enough a large number of "interest
groups" of all types ­­ political, religious, ethnic, athletic,
social, religious, academic, educational, environmental, you name it ­­

Could buy (or share) channels, and send content to their members,
or to broader audiences, supported by their own membership or their
donors or sponsors in the manner of KPFA, KQED, WBAI, the Sierra Club,
and so on.

That would be a socially interesting and socially valuable/desirable
situation, at least IMHO. In fact, maybe that's the way satellite
radio should be required (legislatively) to operate . . . ?

6) What if any of the above aspects does satellite radio have now?

Does or will XM or Sirius sell a channel to a content provider and/or
interest group now (disclaiming any responsibility for what's on it)?

If they sell to some content providers now, can they be required to sell
to any and all providers willing to pay?

Assuming they get up to some acceptable level of subscribers, can or
could subscriber fees similar to those at present cover their basic
operating costs (i.e., just for providing the empty channels) and
modest profit?

Or are they counting on advertising revenues for a major portion of
their future profits? (as do essentially all other forms of commercial
media, radio, TV and print, at present)

7) My personal take or viewpoint on all this is summed up in:

"Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."
British philosopher Lord Acton around 1890.

"Dependence on advertising tends to corrupt. Total dependence
on advertising corrupts totally." Today's version.

The second line is my view of the situation in essentially all areas
of journalism and broadcast media today. The right kind of satellite
radio could be a way around it.

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