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Jim Marshall was sitting in his car with his kids listening to a Christian radio station when suddenly 88.1 WAYF cut out and the Howard Stern show started coming through. "Before I could turn the volume down, there were words on there that terrestrial radio would get a fine for having on," Marshall said. Marshall, who is the regional general manager for The Way-affiliated station in West Palm Beach, Florida, said this is a problem that many Christian radio listeners have encountered, and they are not happy about it.

"When people turn to 88.1 they have an expectation for what they're going to hear, and they are upset when they hear something that's not just different from what they expected, but contrary to what they expected," Marshall said.

Ted McCall, a broadcast engineer in Greenville, South Carolina, explained that this problem occurs when people subscribing to satellite radio stations buy transmitters that transport satellite signals to their FM radios. Many of these transmitters are more powerful than the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) regulations allow, so the transmissions, meant to be contained within one car, end up overpowering whatever is playing on the same or similar frequency nearby.

The transmitters, which are used for iPods as well as satellite radio, typically work on the lower end of radio frequencies, the part of the radio bandwidth populated by non-commercial radio stations like National Public Radio and Christian stations.

McCall said that sometimes when he's driving, the FM modulators (often called "Part 15" transmitters, for the section of FCC code regulating the devices) in passing cars repeatedly overpower the station he's listening to.

The National Association of Broadcasters responded to the ...

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April 2007

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