Adelstein may conditionally back XM/Sirius


Democratic FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein signaled he would point his thumb up if the proposed merger of satcasters XM and Sirius includes a concession package mirroring that proposed recently by Ed Markey (D-MA). Although Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin has indicated he’d walk if conditions become onerous, some analysts think a package with relatively stiff conditions may fly.

The conditions Adelstein would accept, according to an Associated Press report, are a 25% (75-channel) set aside for minority/NCE broadcasters, a doubled, six-year cap on subscription prices, and open competition manufacture of satellite receivers which would additionally be required to include HD radio capability. All of these proposals were contained in Markey’s laundry list last week.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin called for an 8% minority/NCE set-aside (24 channels) and a three-year price cap. His plan has been endorsed by Commissioner Robert McDowell.

Analysts seemed to think XM and Sirius would accept these terms to bring the marathon merger effort to an end.

RBR/TVBR observation: Michael Copps is likely to be on the same page as Adelstein, leaving Deborah Taylor Tate where she always has been, as the wildcard in this issue. Most expect she will eventually get on board with her fellow Republicans Martin and McDowell, but will that be after the concession package has been sweetened? And will the Commissioners and the wedding party use the Martin and Adelstein positions as a starting point and try to split the difference? And what about HD add-ons? They’re said to run from $10-$12 a pop — who will pay for them? And does it matter that to all evidence the satcasters have lacked candor, have avoided competition with one another, and have engaged in other bad behavior? Does it matter that a government-sanctioned monopoly seems on the verge of being created? Stay tuned.