Satellite Radio and the HD Radio Requirement

Back when there was debate about the Sirius and XM satellite radio merger, various groups suggested potential conditions that might be made part of the deal. Some were discarded but others were agreed upon. For example, both companies made an open device pledge that will allow manufacturers to add features to their receivers.

One frequently suggested condition was a requirement that all new satellite radios be capable of receiving terrestrial HD Radio stations. The FCC didn’t make that part of the deal, although they are still requesting public comments on the idea. Now Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) has introduced the “Radio All Digital Channel Receiver Act,” which would make the FCC implement that HD Radio requirement.

For obvious reasons, Clear Channel Communications and others that have invested heavily in HD Radio support this bill. Somewhat less obviously, General Motors and Toyota are opposed to it. They stated in a letter to the FCC: “The proponents of the proposed condition are seeking an unprecedented requirement regulating the choice of entertainment technologies in an automotive environment.”

There is precedent for the FCC mandating hardware, such as requiring UHF receivers and closed-captioning in televisions. But I still would tend to think this requirement will be a tough sell, especially with HD Radio not taking off with consumers the way many had expected.

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