FCC starts clock on satellite merger


It took a long time to get to the starting gate, but the FCC at the close of business Friday finally announced deadlines for comments on the proposed merge of XM satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio. In theory, the merger decision is now 180 days away, although those bureaucratic deadlines have a way of being extended. It has already been nearly four months since the merger application was filed on February 19th and hundreds of comments have already been filed in support of or opposition to the deal to unite the nation's only two satellite radio companies.

The proceeding has been designated MB docket No. 07-57, with the "MB" meaning Media Bureau. Comments and/or petitions, in addition to the 650-plus already entered, are due July 9th, with responses/oppositions due July 24th.

SmartMedia observation: Will we see an FCC decision in December, which would, if it is a "yes," allow XM and Sirius to hit their target of a closing before the end of 2007? Not likely. This is a Washington bureaucracy after all. Don't forget, though, that the FCC is only half of the picture. The Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice also has to give its blessing before any merger can take place. The problem for XM and Sirius is that neither is in bankruptcy court, so they can't make the argument that allowing the only two competitors in their market to become one will prevent one from shutting down. Both companies are headed toward modest profitability. Unfortunately, they promised a lot more to investors, who are now pushing for a merger to improve that profit outlook. We see very little chance that this proposal is going to fly at the FCC – and virtually none with the DOJ.