Byron Dorgan (D-ND) expressed his misgivings about the merger of XM and Sirius back in April. After attending hearings, receiving written answers from the companies to some of his questions and following developments in the news, he wrote the DOJ and the FCC to state that his opposition to the merger remains as strong as ever. Addressing Assistant AG Thomas Barnett and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, Dorgan noted that the licenses were granted "…under the strict condition that there must be at least two companies in the market."
He continued, "Little has changed since their initial licensing in 1997. While other forms of audio have sprouted up around the country, such as terrestrial radio, webcasting or mp3 players, the companies have not proven beyond a doubt that these forms amount to competition…There can be no price check similar to that of two companies with national platforms competing against one another." Dorgan noted that the companies were beneficiaries of a limited pool of competitors to begin with. Only four companies were even allowed to bid on the satellite audio licenses. "There may have been other bidders who could have performed this service, but who were shut out of the bidding. The two companies who prevailed now have to honor the responsibility that comes with a national media platform." He concluded, "I cannot believe that this merger will result in lower prices or increase diversity. And I cannot believe the public will be better served by this merger."
SmartMedia observation: Many broadcasters operating on the AM and/or FM band have objected to the use of the phrase "terrestrial radio." We think they, like us, will be even more surprised to see the medium on a list of audio services which have "sprouted up" since 1997. Perhaps the Senator was referring to HD radio. But the bottom line is that Dorgan is one of the most attentive legislators to communications matters on Capitol Hill, and we can chalk him up as one more legislator standing against the creation of a government-sanctioned monopoly.