updated 07:35 am EDT, Mon June 16, 2008
FCC Staff Say Sirius XM OK
The Federal Communications Commission's staff today tentatively proposed that the US government agency approve the long-delayed merger between satellite radio providers Sirius and XM. The move potentially leads to a completed approval in as soon as three weeks and has received the early blessing of FCC chair Kevin Martin, who states that the union would be "in the public interest" as long as the unified company continues to voluntarily abide by certain conditions.
The deal would require that the combined entity cap its prices as well as offer channels a la carte instead of packages, offer universally compatible Sirius/XM radios within one year of approval, and license their technology to other companies to more companies than those already involved in making satellite radios. About eight percent of the total channels would also need to be set aside for public and minority-owned stations, the FCC says.
Both Sirius and XM had initially proposed some of these measures itself, including the a la carte offering, when it announced the planned merger in early 2007.
The potential deal was previously approved by the Department of Justice in March after the legal body determined that Sirius and XM would be competing against the larger digital audio market, such as iPods and HD Radio, rather than establishing a monopoly.
The National Association of Broadcasters, iBiquity Digital, and other backers of HD Radio and other ground-based radio services have both argued against a unified Sirius/XM as a monopoly while also attempting to require HD Radio support in satellite tuners to bolster the format's marketshare. Concerns exist that frequently exclusive deals for satellite radio in cars have blocked HD Radio's expansion.