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Satellite radio – An earful of joy that will cost you

Prince Frederick, MD – A new car purchase could be just the time—if you haven’t experienced it already—to finally introduce yourself to the astonishing world of satellite radio. Even renting a vehicle equipped with the devices needed to fill the cab with Sirius XM’s plethora of programming might get you somewhat hooked.

Sirius XM is, in fact, primarily focused on pleasing the ears of motor vehicle occupants. Many new cars have Sirius XM already installed. If not and you still want to try it, installation is considered a car-nut’s ideal do-it-yourself project.
Unlike terrestrial radio available on kilohertz (AM) and megahertz (FM) frequencies, satellite radio uses gigahertz (GHz). In North America, the digital audio broadcast is available via the 2.3 GHz S Band.

So what are the pros and cons of satellite radio? There are probably as many opinions as there are channels but here are a few to get the argument started.

Pros

Variety – If you like music there is likely a genre for you. Since programming the music doesn’t appear to be the product of consultants and designed to placate sponsors or focus groups, you are not likely to hear the same song over and over again. If you would prefer something other than music—such as sports, news or comedy—those alternatives are available, too. Howard Stern, once the terror of terrestrial radio with his “Shock Jock” schtick, can be heard on satellite.
Continuity – When you leave a location, such as Southern Maryland, the station you are glued to on satellite doesn’t fade and become a sporadic rim shot. It goes along with you for the long-haul.
Less interruptions – Commercials are vital to the success of a terrestrial radio station. The old adage within commercial radio stations was, and still is, “commercials are not an interruption of programming, they are the reason for it.” The paradigm shifts with satellite. The listener is the reason for the programming. Think of it this way—no “Kars 4 Kids” ads!
Affordability – At least starting out it’s affordable, as in free. Some car dealers will give you satellite free for a few months. When you do finally have to pay it might be at a low introductory price. When you consider the high cost of subscribing to a newspaper or cable television, satellite radio seems like a bargain—at least at first.
Which brings us to the other side

Cons
It’s not free! Terrestrial radio is free and can actually be creative. Commercial radio may not be as classic as it once was but it’s not dead. Wouldn’t you rather use that money for something else?
It’s not local. Your satellite DJ, while he may be personable, is not going to tell you about local traffic jams or whether your kid has school today.
As for continuity, satellite signals are not completely invulnerable and consistent. There are dead spots in areas that can be vexing for the listener. You will just have to wait it out, put on a CD or go back to your terrestrial radio.
Plus, there are DJs on the music channels who do talk too much. On the Outlaw Country channel some of the personalities are obscure recording artists who are trying their hand at being obscure radio announcers. They talk about recording sessions and having breakfast with songwriters and sidemen that the average music fan knows nothing about. Also note this about the satellite DJs—sometimes they use foul language. They can get away with it, too.

The bottom line is, satellite radio is worth a try if you enjoy listening to the radio in your motor vehicle. It might prove to be an indispensable travel companion. It has been around a few years and as long as satellites remain in orbit it might make your ride through life a little better. Are you ready to get your gigahertz on?

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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