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Is XM going soft?
Posted by: Dale Franks on Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Today, I was listening to XM Channel 47, which is called "Ethel" for some odd reason. Ethel is the Alternative Music channel on XM. They also have alt-music channels of different flavors called "Fred", and "Lucy", too. Oddly, there's no "Ricky", though.

So, anyway, they played a song from a group called She Wants Revenge, which is titled "Tear You Apart". The chorus of this song contains the tag line, "I wanna f*ckin' tear you apart". But, when they played it today, every time they got to the line, it was, "I wanna [dead silence] tear you apart".

Now, I don't even like the song. It's stupid, and yet Ethel overplays it to the point of distraction because it's so high in rotation. But, as much as the song irks me, it irks me even more to have XM playing the censored, terrestrial radio airplay version. I hate hearing a song that's constantly being bleeped or silenced because of the naughty words. I'd prefer they just not play the song at all.

Hey, XM guys! I'm not paying 12 bucks a month to you so that you can censor the artists the same way that terrestrial radio does. How are you gonna play Nine Inch Nails' "I Wanna F*ck You Like an Animal", or Blink-182's—well...pretty much anything by Blink-182, and, now that I think about it, pretty much anything by NIN, too—without butchering their songs because of the need to bleep out the dirty words? Or are you gonna just switch over to the terrestrial radio airplay versions of singles, rather than the album version? Why are you promoting XM as having 150 channels of uncensored music comedy, talk, and news if you are, in fact, going to censor the content?

And, if you are gonna censor the content, then what am I paying you for, when I can get the same vanilla programming off terrestrial radio any time I want it? What's next, Opie and Anthony being forced to abide by FCC rules?

So, just for giggles, and because I've already got a problem with the XM web site, because it won't let me log in to my account, I decide to give XM's customer support people a call, and ask what the deal is. Bad move. The conversation starts of like this:

"Thank you for calling XM Satellite Radio. I'm Caitlin..."

"Hi, Caitlin, my name is Da—..."

"...your automated assistant."

"Oh. Crap."

So, I have to talk to computer chick for five minutes before getting to an actual, human CSR. When the CSR finally answers, she goes, "Halloo. My name ees Sandy. Tank you vor callink eeks-eem!" Yeah. Right. "Sandy", is it? That wouldn't happen to short for something else, would it? Like "Sandiji" or something? I mean, look, I don't mind if you set up a call center in Bangalore or wherever, but I do expect the CSRs to speak intelligible English. Unfortunately, "Sandy" can't. Even worse, the phone connection is horrible, and she keeps cutting out.

I can hardly understand what she's saying but I try to explain the problem to her, anyway. When I'm done, she says, "So, you are objectink to de bad words? You wish to block de Ettel channel?"

*sigh*

No. That's not what I want. That's the opposite of what I want. Clearly, we're not getting anywhere with Sandy, so I tell her thanks, politely hang up, then hit redial. Fortunately, when "Caitlin" answers, I hit "0", and learn that you can bypass "Caitlin" completely. Thank God.

So, now, "Mike" answers. Fortunately, his English, while accented, is fluent. Unfortunately, after I explain the problem, and he tells me he needs to put me on hold and check my account info, he hangs up on me instead.

So, now, I gotta call back a third time. It goes better, this time, though, and I get to explain the problem, finally, to someone who gets it. But, after going through all this hassle, what they finally give me is nothing more than the email address to contact the people at Ethel directly...an email address I already had. I've used the email address before, in fact. Not once have I ever gotten an answer from ethel@xmradio.com. Never.

So, three calls to customer service, and I got nothin'. That's not really the way I want my customer service calls to work out.

I went with XM because, technologically, they are light-years ahead of the Little Doggie Company. Next month, for example, XM is coming out with two new combined XM receivers/MP3 players, the Pioneer inno and Samsung Helix that're about half the size of an iPod, and which play both live programming, and up to 50 hours of recorded programming. Even cooler is the new XM Passport, a little card about the size of a compact flash card that contains your XM account info. Instead of having to get a new XM account for every radio, you just transfer the passport from one device to another. So you can use your XM account with multiple devices simply by plugging in the passport card.

The Little Doggie Company doesn't have anything like that. In fact, they don't even have a portable receiver. All they have is a brick-sized player that only plays recorded content, and even that only allows you to record 2-hour blocks of programming. Oh, and it heats up to about 1500°C in about 10 minutes, so you have to carry around a tank of liquid nitrogen to hose it off every few minutes to prevent it from bursting into flame.

But tech advantages don't last forever. If XM starts censoring content, and doesn't buck up its customer service process, then the Little Doggie Company is eventually gonna eat XM's lunch. They already have pretty much every major sport, except for MLB and the NHL. When the playing field comes down to content, instead of tech advantages, as it surely will, I hope XM is ready, or it's gonna be brutal.

Note to Hugh Panero and Eric Logan: Complacency is fatal in any tech-related business. And complacency in customer support is fatal to any business. You may want to keep that in mind. Oh, and ELo, please give me back my uncensored Ethel. I'm asking you because, well, I did send an email to Ethel...and, as usual, haven't received an answer.

Oh, and by the way, my issue about not being able to log into xmradio.com, because it wouldn't accept my password? Now, it says I don't have an XM account at all. Oh, and while we're on the subject of xmradio.com, how about making your web site compatible with Mozilla Firefox, instead of forcing me to use Internet Explorer?

*sigh*

So, now, I gotta call "Sandy" again.

You know, the Little Doggie Company is looking better.

UPDATE: OK. A CSR got me up and running with the online login.

By the way, speaking of Blink-182, that reminds me of a story. This past Christmas, My dad and stepmother came out to California, and they stayed at my stepmother's brother's house up in Corona. My dad and my...stepuncle, I guess..went to Bible college together at Southwestern Assemblies of God college in Waxahachie, TX. So they've all known each other for more than 40 years.

Now, my dad is an ordained minister, and so is my step-uncle. And I mean real, conservative, fundamentalist Pentecostal ministers. In fact, pretty much every adult in my family has been an ordained minister for the last 4 generations. I'm kinda the black sheep, as you might've guessed.

Anyway, at the big Christmas gathering, my step-uncle's kids and grandkids were there. The grandkids are about 12 years old or so, and they bought their instruments—both of our families are very musical, and all of us sing and play at least one instrument. They were gonna play some music for everyone at the party.

So, we're listening to them play, and the kids announce that their next song is by Blink-182. Naturally, no one in my father's generation has a freakin' clue as to who Blink-182 is. But the first thing that goes through my mind is, "Who is letting these little kids listen to Blink-182 at their age?" The second thing is, "Dear God, please don't let these kids start singing the lyrics to 'Roller Coaster'!" I mean, I could just picture it: The kids are singing:

I had that dream
About you again
Where you drove my car
Right off a f*cking cliff...

...then coronaries all 'round as the lyrics sink in to the assembled members of the ministry in attendance.

Fortunately, the kids didn't sing. They just payed guitars and drums.

*Whew!*

Crisis averted.

UPDATE II: While checking my iPod to be sure I had the right lyrics for the Blink-182 song above, I noticed that I have a Billy Joel song on my iPod.

I have no freakin' clue where that came from.
 
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Most likely their website is already compatible with Firefox. Firefox is (pretty much) compatible with anything. I suggest you download the User Agent Switcher, an extension for Firefox. It will mask your browser signature, allowing you to look like Internet Explorer. Often enough you’ll find that with no change in Firefox itself the websites will magically start working.

User Agent Switcher [mozilla.org]

—Firedrake
 
Written By: FiredrakeRAGE
URL: http://
So, let me see if I got this right. The solution to xmradio.com rejecting Firefox is for me to modify my browser installation, and not for XM to allow access via Firefox, which about 30% [That should read 20%—Ed.] of the user community uses as their primary browser?

Sorry, that’s a non-starter. I do web applications for a living, and I make damned sure that every web site I work on works with both Firefox and IE. The business of business is to serve customers, not to force them to serve themselves.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
So, let me see if I got this right. The solution to xmradio.com rejecting Firefox is for me to modify my browser installation, and not for XM to allow access via Firefix, which about 30% of the user community uses as their primary browser?

Sorry, that’s a non-starter. I do web applications for a living, and I make damned sure that every web site I work on works with both Firefox and IE. The business of business is to serve customers, not to force them to serve themselves.
Ah, but you can do something about your browser. You cannot say the same about their website.

—Firedrake
 
Written By: FiredrakeRAGE
URL: http://
I can grow my own freakin’ corn, too, but I prefer to have my grocery store tighten me up with that.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
Both XM and Sirius censor the music on some channels.

XM’s uncensored channels are designated with the "XL" logo on all its program guides. Most are subject to being censored .. but a couple of the Rap/Hip-hop and hard rock (Boneyard and Squizz) are not.

Both services try to provide a reasonable amount of censored music for those who want it. If you don’t, you just want to check out the uncensored channels.
 
Written By: MM
URL: http://
And, as I recall, the doggie doesn’t charge as much per month either.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://qando.net
I don’t have either, but I have thought about XM before. In addition to the tech advantages, the only sport I care about is baseball, and I specifically would like to not have any of my money go to Howard Stern, so, XM all the way.
 
Written By: K
URL: http://
The doggie just raised its rates today.

And if Ethel has been censored, then why have they been playing all uncensored music until today?
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
dude, Ethel is for chix! try Fred on 44.


I’ve had both and, for me, the doggie is doodoo; and, again for me, channel 44 props up the whole XM operation.

still, if you want good *current* music, just go catch a stream at kposi.com.
k
 
Written By: longtimereader
URL: http://
I’ve been listening to both Fred and XMU lately, as well as Unsigned. I jump around between them a lot, depending on what’s playing at the moment. Today, I just happened to catch the song on Ethel.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
I specifically would like to not have any of my money go to Howard Stern, so, XM all the way.
Yeah, I hate Stern, too. I’ve been listening to Opie and Anthony every day, they’re what Stern used to be before he got all old & crotchety, but better.

That having been said, Ron & Fez pretty much suck, though.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
one morning I threw on the ’ole XM within our first few weeks of having it. as each new song would come on my gag reflex was strong enough to spill my coffee. I’d been so happy with Fred, how could it have gone so bad overnight!

after a painful hour of hoping beyond hope, I realized my spouse had set it on Ethel. wretch.

they’ve also got Dorothy, or whatever that curly haired cast-member was. it’s not such an o’ball, but the commercials say it’s "like Ethel with less camel-toe".

I wish they would have censored that.
k


PS - Stern & Letterman should buy an Island together and disappear with Mr Peanut.
 
Written By: longtimereader
URL: http://
Dale Franks said:

I can grow my own freakin’ corn, too, but I prefer to have my grocery store tighten me up with that.
Of course. I would like my car to never stop working. However, if it does stop working, my first action will be to call a tow truck. I’ll complain to Ford once I have the situation in hand.

—Firedrake
 
Written By: FiredrakeRAGE
URL: http://
I’ve had anothing but a great experice with XM customer care. Their are problems with every type of customer care but XM will be around here for a LONG time.
 
Written By: prozac
URL: http://
I hate hearing about this, I have had XM for over a year and mostly really like it. BTW didn’t you know about the OSUCK virus? The OSUCK virus creeps into mp3 players and downloads sucky oldies, thus the Billy Joel song.
 
Written By: kyle N
URL: http://impudent.blognation.us/blog
I do web applications for a living, and I make damned sure that every web site I work on works with both Firefox and IE.
OT: Do you also stay away from active-X and other OS specific requirements? (Well, I’m primarily a Linux user.)
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
I was x-m subscriber 38,420. Have three accounts.

Sometimes when I want something more aggressive to psyche me up for bbq cookoffs, etc, I listen to 66RAW.

I’ve heard censored content on there as well. I think it has to do with the particular version (single v CD ’album’ cut) than a policy of censorship.

What I DETEST is some of my fav channels and (CNN, Air AMerica, Coast to Coast, O&A, Traffic) all have damn commercials!

They get so bad sometimes, it is worse than airwave broadcast formats.

I beat Clear Channel in a lawsuit once, swore never to have anything to do with them; however, x-m is tolerable, and damn better than a ’12 minute/twice an hour commercial break’ format!
 
Written By: Rick D.
URL: http://
dude, Ethel is for chix! try Fred on 44.
Huh. 44 is the "Classic Alternative" channel. When I want to hear 20-year old songs, "ill just pop on a CD, thanks. I’ll Stick with Ethel, Lucy, XMU, and Unsigned, thanks.

I hit Fred when I’m skipping around, but most of the stuff from the 80s and 90s I’ve already heard a million times.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
Do you also stay away from active-X and other OS specific requirements?
Yes, I do. The only time I’ve ever used ActiveX is in Intranet projects, where the environment is specified.

That’s one of the things that makes .NET so great now. Everything comes off the server as either plain HTML or as Javascript. ActiveX is essentially dead. And good riddance.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
Dale writes: Huh. 44 is the "Classic Alternative" channel. When I want to hear 20-year old songs, "ill just pop on a CD, thanks.
I don’t put much stock in the words stations use to describe themselves; I hadn’t focused on the "Classic" part of it... whatever. they are all obviously birds of a feather.


I go to radio when I want to tune out. I can put on Fred in the background and I’ll sometimes catch myself groovin to my teen years. but if I really want to listen to music I catch a stream or throw on a playlist.

"pop on a CD" sure takes me back though. I honestly am not sure how I could get CD output to the whole house. I’d have to rip it first.
k


http://kposi.com is free! take a dig.
 
Written By: longtimereader
URL: http://
Apparently, XM IS going soft. In fact, they’ve been Oprah-fied.
 
Written By: SaveFarris
URL: http://
Thanks for the info Dale. I think I’ll stick with my mp3 player for now. Maybe forever. With 20 gb of music, why would I need a radio?
 
Written By: EdMcGon
URL: http://politicsandpigskins.blogspot.com/
I have had both and definitely prefer XM. I have never noticed a censored song, and it has always annoyed me that the talk stations have such long and frequent commercial breaks. I did notice that Sirius has much more synergistic advertising, promoting another channel and such. XM seems to have a much wider array of advertisers. Makes me think Sirius is having difficulties. (OT I have also noticed this trend on AirAmerica, where I hear constant PSA’s. Where is the advertising? Makes me suspicious).
 
Written By: Tom in Texas
URL: http://
I have had both and definitely prefer XM. I have never noticed a censored song, and it has always annoyed me that the talk stations have such long and frequent commercial breaks.
Bear in mind that the talk stations are just feeds from terrestrial radio. Those talk shows have commercials built in, so XM doesn’t really have a choice. They have to run the feed. At best, they can cover the feed during commercials with some promo, but they can’t eliminate those breaks.

Which brings me to...
(OT I have also noticed this trend on AirAmerica, where I hear constant PSA’s. Where is the advertising? Makes me suspicious).
Satellite radio runs the feed. Air America almost certainly runs PSAs on their during the local portion of each break, so that stations who haven’t sold local avails won’t have dead air. If XM isn’t selling those breaks, then they’d have to run the feed. In any event, it’s pretty much SOP for syndicated talk shows to run PSAs on their feed during locals stopsets.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Air America almost certainly runs PSAs on their during the local portion of each break, so that stations who haven’t sold local avails won’t have dead air.
Which, in the case of my affiliate (Baton Rouge), would be EVERY break. They’ve been on the air for 6 months and I’ve heard exactly ONE local commerical. That can’t be good for the profit margin.
 
Written By: SaveFarris
URL: http://
No, it can’t.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
ok, whining about some songs beings censored while posting on a site that announces they "do blacklist certain terms of profanity or obscenity" is kinda funny. and i truly hate you pretentious music types. get a life. "i only listen to music that no one else has ever heard of. there’s this great trio of blind sherpas who play their instruments with their feet." get over yourselves. you’re not in college anymore and you weren’t cool then. fuc kin* hippies.
 
Written By: marc
URL: http://
I think this is a little bit of an overreaction, don’t you? Do you thank that possibly, just POSSIBLY they mixed the wrong version into the rotation??? Both XM and sirius, and most radio stations these days, have massive databases with all their music on them (no cds any more), so when they’re cueing up a set, it is REALLY easy to hit the "radio edit" version, that was probably purchased for a kiddy pop or top 20 station (yes, they DO have to service people who do noot like f-bombs on their radio).

Calm down. you really want to accuse XM of censoring content when O&A are slamming mousetraps on people’s nuts a mere 160 stations up the dial? Come on.

P.S. a note on censorship: check on ol Howie an how he’s doing with his big shiny DUMP BUTTON on sirius. what a loser that guy is. Fraud.
 
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