XM Satellite Radio said on Thursday it will launch an instant traffic and weather service on March 1, prompting established U.S. radio broadcasters to denounce the move as a "backdoor attempt" to skirt regulations.
On its Web site, XM said its new service would offer subscribers in-depth, up-to-date information about road and weather conditions in 21 major metropolitan markets plus several interstate corridors nationwide.
XM said its service would provide greater detail and more frequent updates than available elsewhere on the radio.
In a statement on the National Association of Broadcasters' Web site, Edward Fritts, the trade group's chief executive officer and president, said the association questioned the legality of the program.
"XM Satellite Radio's announcement today to provide weather and traffic reports to select major markets represents an appalling back-door attempt to bypass the Federal Communication Commission's intent to limit satellite radio to a national service only," Fritts said.
"There is no doubt the 175 million daily listeners of local radio stations know that the best and most reliable source for news, school closings, and weather and traffic alerts continues to be their local broadcasters," he said.
XM on Wednesday said it had signed up more than 1.36 million subscribers by year-end 2003. In 2004, XM said it will offer a total of 121 channels, including 68 music channels, 32 news, sports, talk and variety channels and 21 XM Instant Traffic and Weather channels for the basic monthly fee of $9.99 a month.