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Considering satellite radio

Country Standard Time Editorial, November 2004

The burgeoning satellite radio industry could be a real boon for the music listening public.

At the same time, satellite radio companies XM and Sirius, also could pose a threat for commercial radio.

Radio stations have long controlled what listeners hear for better and many times worse, especially in this day and age of limited playlists and music that doesn't offend people.

But technology has changed all that. Now, for a price, listeners can subscribe to Sirius or XM.

Radio stations will tell you that the listening public determines their playlists. If the stations play a song, which listeners don't like, the radio stations won't play it based on comments from listeners. And many radio stations use dreaded consultants who help determine what they play based on feedback from selected groups of listeners - in other words, they end up going with a small group of folks to determine what radio stations around the country should play because playing the most popular songs could lead to more advertising dollars and a fatter bottom line.

Whatever happened to radio stations deciding the playing field and breaking acts? If they don't or are unwilling to do so, maybe satellite radio could.

Satellite radio companies are not worried about advertisers because they are commercial free and dependent upon paid subscribers. They also don't bother with focus groups and are far more willing to play divergent music from Top 40 country to alt.-country.

Maybe satellite radio will be the next progression of the radio industry. It's not clear if listeners will latch onto what they may feel entitled to because it's been free for so many decades. But once upon a time we thought the same thing about cable television, and now cable television attracts a whole lot of viewers formerly wedded to NBC, CBS and ABC.

In fact, the listeners will decide what they want with their pocketbooks. That, in turn, could lead to more choice for listeners who would not have to be worried about the limited playlists and questionable choices of commercial radio as we know it.