My Satellite Radio Jones

I love all radio, but my heart belongs to satellite

I have always been a radio junky. When I was younger, my fix was Seventies gold from my mother's clock radio and archived recordings of George Burns and Gracie Allen. Micro-stations and AM talk kept me well-fed through my 20s.

Now, it's satellite radio.

For a true junky, there's no better fix. Many people I know think this is daffy – why, they ask, would you pay for something you can already have for free – the same quizzical wondering that accompanied the arrival of cable television in the Seventies. The answer is simple: Satellite radio is better. Don't get me wrong, I still listen to local radio; among my favorite local stations is 88.7 KAZI, like my home-growing colleague Rachel Proctor May. The difference is that instead of an hour of reggae or lounge tunes, sat-radio gives me 24/7 reggae and lounge, along with some 60-plus additional commercial-free music channels. With satellite radio you can listen, track to track to track, without car dealers yelling at you or the plague of chain-restaurant jingles. From the sometimes painful, sometimes blissful sounds of unsigned artists (XM Channel 52), to a brace of songs from homegrown Austin artists (featured consistently on Channel 12), to jam bands and live performances on XM Music Lab (Channel 51), to old-school hip-hop on the Rhyme (Channel 65).

On satellite, I can isolate what I don't want to hear from what I do want to hear – I roll the dice instead of waiting to see what the deejay will throw.

But XM Radio – and its competitor, Sirius (the only companies currently licensed to operate sat-radio) – is more than just music. In addition, sat-radio offers a diverse assortment of news and entertainment feeds. This is great if, like me, you're into talk radio, but find the local offerings one-sided and, generally, pathetic.

Since the introduction of sat-radio – born in the Nineties, launched in 2001 – the nascent companies have been involved in a tug-of-war for industry dominance. Sirius signed a $100 million contract with Howard Stern and also broadcasts the NFL; XM snagged former NPR morning host Bob Edwards to anchor their public radio channel with an original one-hour talk show, and carries NASCAR and baseball. Sat-radio's growth – and, therefore, market success – may also depend on how things pan out with deals that each company has with auto-makers (Ford, Daimler-Chrysler, GM, and Toyota) to include sat-radio as standard and/or add-on equipment in new models.

Ultimately, the competition benefits listeners (in the five months I've had the service, XM has loaded nearly a dozen new channels), because with satellite radio what really counts is diversity and freedom. Although seemingly oxymoronic, it is the dizzying freedom the subscription service offers that makes sat-radio so tantalizingly attractive. Sat-radio is completely removed from the broadcast world, where one nipple triggered an avalanche of specious moral righteousness. Instead of the feds deciding what I can listen to and when I can listen to it, I decide. And there's just something so right about driving with the windows down on a sunny day while listening to completely uncut and uncensored standup bits from local comedian Tom Hester (XM Comedy Channel 150) – expletives, sexual innuendo, and all.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More satellite radio
Media Watch
Media Watch
XM, Sirius Await FCC Decision

Kevin Brass, March 2, 2007

My Obsession
My Obsession
Satellite radio

Joe Nick Patoski, Dec. 19, 2003

More by Jordan Smith
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
Motoreum's Yusuf & Antonio talk about the biz and their reality TV debut

May 22, 2014

APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
Musical chairs at Downtown HQ

May 9, 2014

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

satellite radio, XM Radio, Phil Hendrie, Sirius, Tom Hester, Howard Stern, Bob Edwards

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle