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Readers Respond To XM Satellite Radio's Promise of Commercial-Free Music Channel

Dateline: 04/26/05


I recently wrote and article entitled, XM Radio: What Exactly Is The Definition of Commercial-Free?. The article was in response to an email I received from a site visitor, John, who was complaining about commercials he heard or thought he heard on "commercial-free" music channels.

He felt that XM had violated their promise. Specifically he wrote: “XM is bs-ing the public and even worse its subscribers by saying 100% commercial free and then still airing commercials on its music channels. You should write about that.”

So I checked into things and presented several scenarios under which an XM listener might perceive he was hearing commercials on a commercial-free music channel. I also offered XM space to respond – and they did. At the conclusion of the article, I asked readers for their thoughts and here are some of the responses I received:

I have been feeling annoyed lately with the constant xm "promos"between songs on the music channels I listen to. I only want to hear programming-anyone who owns an xm unit can goto their site and look for any pertinent info about other xm products/offers. When you pay 10+$ per month, you don't want anything but content. – Jeff

…while it doesn’t bother me when XM does put out commercial type of programming on their music channels, I do find it annoying hearing these type of "promo" spots over and over again. Even on the premium service (Opie and Anthony Show) you get these promo spots over and over again. I hope XM will cut back a bit and not be so aggressive with promoting themselves! They have us as subscribers, now they should just give us what we paid for. - Mark,

Corey, c'mon man please...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Do you REALLY have to 'consult' and 'expert' to know what a commercial is?
The same thing is happening to public television!!!
They call them 'promos' but does 'promote' REALLY mean?
Isn't that what ADVERTISING DOES? To promote/advertise?
t is just another way to use semantics to get around the TRUTH!
And who is doing the determination on the criteria of what anything means? THOSE WHO WILL BENEFIT!! AS ALWAYS!
We aren't STUPID!!!!!!!!
Of course they are commercials…!
– Ernest

As a former Production Director for both commercial and non-commercial radio I would just like to add to what was written. The way I've been taught (and subsequently have taught to others) in defining the two separately, has been (specifically) in the "text" of the sponsor announcement…To advertise there has to be an urging, suggestion or implication to "buy" or "purchase" something…the line is indeed fine and as in the case of XM, I tend to agree with the assertion that they are dangerously close to blurring it (such as placing oldie commercials against current sponsor mentions). Of course they would define it as "creative" promotion - what else are they going to say? – R.B.

I'm also in the radio biz and was thinking: Everything that goes on the air is a commercial. As radio air-talent, our job is to "promote the music," ie. sell CDs. Every time we play the latest Tim McGraw or Dierks Bentley song, we're really playing a commercial for the recording industry. Even jingles, liners and other station promos are commercials. The whole point of a station mention between every song is so people will remember the call letters or slogan…. For some listeners, anything from the time the music stops to the time the music starts is commercial content. News, weather and traffic reports aren't immune, although providing useful information (read "public service") they are usually sponsored and therefore are commercials. – David

I don’t care how the industry sub-classifies advertising. Advertising is a commercial and a commercial is advertising, period. When I subscribe to a service who’s PRIMARY sales pitch is “commercial free music” and my listening is constantly being interrupted by “now, on channel xx, we have Joe Blow and the infamous whoosits” that is advertising and therefore that channel cannot be considered commercial free. So quit advertising as such. Why am I paying a subscription fee for a commercial free service when they are clearly generating additional revenue from off-topic discussions and such. After all, if I wanted to listen to baseball wouldn’t I be tuned to the baseball channel! - Tony

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