Satellite radio on a non-commercial FM station? What the...?

There’s a section of road (residential, with houses sitting on both sides) about a half-mile long leading into my relatively small hometown. Every time I drive through it, my favorite radio station, 88.1 FM, breaks up, and I hear intermittent broadcasts from another station.

I did find that odd, since my regular station comes in fine everywhere else in the area and the section of road involved is not on any type of hill, but I just sort of ignored it as a minor inconvenience.

Today, however, around 5PM, I was driving past and what should I hear bleed through, but the unmistakable voice (and profanity - not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it was rather startling at the time) of Howard Stern conducting an interview.

How is this even possible?

The only thing I can come up with is that a local resident is rebroadcasting Sirius content via a small (very small - considering the distance involved, maybe 20 watts or so) pirate radio station. If this is the case, though, why pick a frequency already in use, when there are plenty to choose from that aren’t?

Can anyone else come up with an alternative explanation? And, if not, should I report this behavior to the FCC?

Could it be a rebroadcast of an old show? Maybe terrestrial radio stations still have the right to those.

Considering the unedited profanity during daytime hours, and on a non-commercial frequency, I highly doubt it.

From the bits and pieces I heard, Howard was talking about how Pete Townsend had every right in the world to “bang younger chicks.” If any Stern fans can confirm that he said that on today’s broadcast, that would put that theory to rest.

I’m not sure if Townsend was the one being interviewed, but it was definitely someone with a British accent.

88.1 FM? Someone’s using the FM transmitter on their Sirius receiver on that frequency. The range on them is probably a bit excessive (I can pick up my XM receiver from across my apartment parking lot sometimes.)

Possible, I suppose, but like I said, 88.1 FM is an already-used frequency that comes in quite clearly throughout the entire area. 87.9 is free, 88.3 is free, and so are many others. And a parking lot is a far cry from a half-mile of roadway. How excessive is the range on these FM transmitters?

Also, the signal bleeds over literally 24/7. It’s hard to imagine someone listening to Sirius all day, every day. I do appreciate the suggestion, and it’s possibly correct, but, in my mind it just doesn’t sound very plausible.

Heh. I just noticed that your listed location (Vine St.) is the same name of the street on which I hear these signals. Wouldn’t be trying to cover your tracks, would you, brianjedi? :wink:

/checks to see if he moved to PA

88.1 is a common frequency for FM modulators, and Sirius has been under fire from the FCC lately for their modulators exceeding power limits. I’d still say it’s someone with a Sirius receiver and an FM modulator (possibly even an external one, which can have pretty big ranges.)

I use 88.1 for my XM, and sometimes hear some Sirius will bleed through on to that. Even though 88.1 has a station, it’s relatively weak, and the modulator can beat it out. I’m in an area with no free stations, so a weak one at 88.1 is the best I can do.

I’m sure you were getting a nearby car’s Sirius from an FM modulator.

I suppose that must be it, but on a roadway that is never terribly busy, I get the signal without fail, even at 3AM, when the road is deserted.

I’m not doubting you guys, but it does seem awfully strange. What’s equally strange is that I never get the same bleed-through in stop-and-go traffic in far more congested areas like Harrisburg at morning rush hour.

You said there are houses around, right? Maybe someone is using an FM modulator in their home?

It is very possible. They are probably not listening to the content 24 hours a day, but they probably don’t turn the Sirius unit off. Over the weekends, I bet my Sirius radio is on about 24 hours a day.

I don’t use FM modulation, however.

I have my XM unit set at 107.7 most of the time. I sometimes get bleed through from Sirius units. I’m sure thats what you got.

They also might be recording it.

The phenomenon is called “podjacking”. Basically, what you’ve got is someone using what is supposed to be a very low powered transmitter at a frequency that is actually in use by an over-the-air station. Because you’re more or less on top of the transmitter, that overpowers the over-the-air station, and you get to hear what the satellite (or iPod user) is listening to.

Basically, one of two problems is happening. Either the transmitter itself is putting out too much power, or the user installed it improperly. This last condition is one of the reasons car manufacturers are beginning to offer hardwired iPod connections, beginning with the 2007 model year now being introduced, and why they currently offer satellite radio receivers. It’s also a good argument for professional installation of satellite radio receivers, as well as not monkeying around with the equipment. Here is an article about it. It has the specs and stuff for these transmitters.

From the sound of it, someone has their radio receiver on at all times and has a transmitter that is too strong.

You can always file a complaint with the FCC here. In the comments section, you might want to explain that you believe the problem is caused by a faulty or too-powerful Part 15 (use that term) transmitter being used with a satellite radio receiver. They’ll send an inspector out to check things out and tell whoever’s responsible to knock it off, or more likely, to change the frequency or lower the power or whatever.

Ah, MsRobyn. Being from the area and in the radio biz (in a way, I was too - WMSS, Middletown, which at 3,000 watts, was, by several orders of magnitude, the most powerful high school radio station in the state - God, that was fun!), I’d hoped that you’d offer an opinion on the matter. Our station manager and Harrisburg’s current eye-in-the-sky, John Wilsbach, called me the best high school DJ he’d seen since the inception of the station, but I digress.

Thank you for the information. Though it’s only a minor disturbance in my own eyes, I think I’ll follow through on the complaint form. Though I am not, many residents of this town can be a little prudish, and certainly wouldn’t appreciate Stern’s vulgarity intruding on XPN’s World Cafe as they drive their kids home from school.

I bet the Sirius radios comply with FCC rules. Your radio probably falls into the category of a device that “must accept all interference” or somesuch. So, no luck getting the FCC to fix this.

There’s two things you could try:

  1. Drive faster down the road so the interference lasts a shorter time (just kidding)
  2. Drive really slowly down the road one day and try to pick out the most likely residences the interference is coming from. Ask nicely if they have Sirius, and if they do, explain the situation and ask them to change the frequency of their modulator to 87.9 or 88.3 or something. Most (if not all) Sirius receivers will allow one to do this.

Sorry, but that’s totally incorrect. The signal in question IS interfering with the reception of a licensed broadcast signal, and as such, the FCC almost certainly will investigate.

QED is right. 88.1 in the Harrisburg area is licensed to WPXH, a repeater that broadcasts WXPN from Philadelphia. neutron star was trying to listen to WPXH when he heard Howard Stern. The FCC is aware that podjacking exists, and will be more than happy to send someone over to check it out and take appropriate action. neutron star has no more authority to tell the guy to change his frequency than I or you do, but the FCC does and will enforce the law.

That said, the Sirius receiver may very well comply with FCC rules, but there are aftermarket parts that may or may not comply. Furthermore, compliance with interference also depends on how the equipment is installed. If it’s installed improperly; say, the guy ran a compliant transmitter to his garage, but didn’t use properly-shielded cable or something, there could be interference. See the article I linked to for more details about that.

Oh, and neutron star, I sometimes listen to WMSS when I’m on the East Shore. Airman works at HIA, so I get it easily. Excellent station, high school or not!


Airman works at HIA? Cool. Tell him I said hello from about 10 blocks away from his workplace. Despite minor political differences, he is one of my favorite posters on this board. :slight_smile:

Funny enough, I’d heard that XM unit FM modulators were too powerful.

I bet they’re all in spec but occasionally there are pockets where the FCC licensed signal is so weak that the modulators can overpower them.

This phenomenon will probably disappear (eventually) as more and more people buy built in XM or Sirius units for their cars, and decommission their old ones.