Members of the Congressional Black Caucus saw the 4% set-aside for women and minorities mentioned in the XM/Sirius merger package sanctioned by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, and saw crumbs. The percentage translates to 12 channels; the CBC was thinking more along the lines of 60. Meanwhile, others saw approval as long overdue.
"It’s shocking to the conscience in this day and age, where the minority populations comprise a significant part of the satellite radio audience, that Mr. Martin would settle for what I deem to be crumbs that have fallen off the table," said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), according to the Washington Post "We can do much better. I am hoping that this can be revisited." Members of the CBC are looking at possible remedies, up to and including legislation.
Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps said he would consider the proposal with an open mind but remained skeptical. Martin will need two other votes, and his most likely candidates are fellow Republicans Deborah Taylor Tate and Robert McDowell. Democrat Jonathan Adelstein is likely to join Copps on the skeptical side of the aisle. If there is a wildcard, it is Tate, who may be swayed by opposition to the merger from members of the broadcasting and perhaps the musical communities, both important forces in her native Tennessee.
Gigi Sohn of watchdog Public Knowledge was counting the agreement as a victory, saying it was calling for many of the XM/Sirius concessions from the get-go. She expects skepticism from the Democratic commissioners and suspects that McDowell may try to hold out for fewer conditions on the merger.
Wall Street tout Motley Fool said NAB was wasting its time trying to prevent the merger, and said it “has bigger fish to fry, like automakers installing input jacks for portable media players and music-stocked cell phones…” It said “lower prices, broader programming, and more manufacturers cranking out receivers…” will be among the consumer benefits.
Anti-merger watchdog C3SR called the entire process suspect. Julian L. Shepard of Williams Mullen, counsel to C3SR, said, "The entire FCC process is now unreasonably shrouded in secrecy. Sirius and XM are trading on the secrecy of the highly confidential documents in the court of public opinion. They have refused to come forth with the facts. In public, Sirius and XM are denying the facts in the highly confidential documents, but they have not submitted any evidence to support their denial. Meanwhile, Sirius and XM are saying what they wish in private ex parte meetings with the FCC." It’s pushing hard for a public hearing on the matter.
RBR/TVBR observation: Three years. That’s when the monopoly kicks in for consumers. That’s when the merged entity can start charging whatever it damn well pleases. But hey, maybe they’ll finally have interoperable receivers by then – what a bonanza for consumers. And won’t it be just hilarious watching every minority and female organization in the US scrapping over their 12 shared channels? Of course, the monopoly power over program suppliers will begin immediately upon closing. All the bargaining chips will be gathered into the long arms of the merged entity, and the era of the satellite take-it-or-leave-it deal with artists will launch. We’re now waiting for Parker Brothers to come out with one of their specialty Monopoly games, the DOJ/FCC version, with the words XM and Sirius printed on the two dark blue properties just before GO, complete with permanent hotels prefabricated by the government.