Doing without satellite radio

August 03, 2008|By Gregory Karp | Gregory Karp,The Morning Call

Common targets for family spending cuts include work lunches out, premium cable TV channels and the perennial whipping boy of financial advice, a daily latte.

But what if you subscribe to satellite radio? Does paying for radio present a good value proposition for you?

Satellite radio, most often found in automobiles using special receivers and antennas, is similar to subscription satellite TV. Though new packages and pricing are supposed to be available in the fall, customers have commonly paid about $13 a month to receive service. Service on additional receivers, such as in another car, costs extra. It's typical to spend about $240 a year for service on two devices, not counting hardware costs and activation fees.

Spokesman Chance Patterson noted the XM service alone added 1 million subscribers in the second quarter and a record number of new-car customers for the fifth consecutive quarter. He pointed to the service's relatively low price and abundant content as "unmatched entertainment value available nationwide for a modest cost."

It's hard to deny satellite radio is a desirable service, but is it worth the money?

Here are less expensive listening options:

*Use an MP3 player for music.

If you have an iPod or other portable music player, you can play recorded audio files through your home and car audio systems. You might need accessories, such as a direct wire connection, a cassette adapter or an FM transmitter, which plays the audio through a station on the FM radio.

*Use an MP3 player for talk shows.

Besides music, you can play podcasts on an MP3 player. Podcasts are digital recordings of radio broadcasts or similar audio programs. Most music-library software, such as Apple Inc.'s iTunes for iPods, allows you to subscribe to podcasts for free and easily load them onto your device.

*Use an MP3 player for news.

It won't be up-to-the-minute news, but you can download free podcasts of news from a variety of sources.

*Go online.

For music, check out music from,, and your favorite radio station Web sites.

*Go HD.

High-definition radio allows AM and FM stations to transmit digital signals. You'll have to buy a digital-enabled radio for about $100.

Gregory Karp writes for The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa.

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