According to the Baltimore Sun (free reg required - sorry), various bad manufacturers have been taking the mickey over the more relaxed regulations the Americans have for low powered transmitters. More precisely, the Septics have the freedom to use low-powered FM transmitters to link portable gear to domestic and in-car radios, stuff like the i-Trip that lets you listen to your iPod on the stereo without fiddling with wires.
That's a good thing, and I'm glad that Ofcom has decided to give us the same freedom for Christmas. The rules are quite tight, though; the signal is restricted to just enough oomph to struggle through a few feet of air. Otherwise chaos would reign.
Trouble is, some of the more aggressive newcomers to the American radio scene - Sirius and XM, both of whom supply thousands of subscription digital channels via satellite - have been telling their suppliers to build in more powerful FM transmitters than the law allows. This makes their listeners happy as it's more convenient to set things up and more flexible in the way a single XM or Sirius box can cover an entire house, but it's annoying the Hertz out of their next door neighbours. There you are, quietly listening to The Lord's Hour on God's Blessings Radio when suddenly some kickin' junglist riddims come pouring in. The worst affected are the public broadcasters, who tend to have weaker signals anyway.
Things are in hand, and both XM and Sirius have said sorry. Self regulation may yet win out. But how many other bits of similar naughtiness are underway in wireless data, where manufacturers feel free to sell 'pre-N' and 'draft-N' systems with, one imagines, equally scant care for interference with others.