Key House Democrats address XM/Sirius


The proposed merger of satcasters XM and Sirius has made it through DOJ and is now under review at the FCC. John Dingell (D-MI) and Ed Markey (D-MA), the MOCs with the most to say about communications matters, have weighed in via an open letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin in which they detail conditions they’d like to see in the event the merger is approved.

They say they remain agnostic as to whether or not the merger should be approved. But if approved, they want to items required as a condition of approval. First, they want price constraints in place, as already promised. “Such a condition would ensure that a combined entity does not take advantage of consumers by leveraging its position as sole provider of satellite radio services by raising prices.”

Second, they want to assure that any manufacturer who so desires may manufacture and distribute reception devices, which may also include HD radio elements, iPod ports, internet connections and whatever else they’d like to incorporate. Further, they want assurances that no exclusive deals will throw any kind of obstacle in the way of any manufacturer, regardless of whether they are in-car or free-standing models.

RBR/TVBR observation: OK, let’s see if we have this straight – this is an acceptable merger, but we have to have special provisions in place to prevent monopolistic behavior. We say that if it quacks like a monopoly and waddles like a monopoly, it’s a monopoly. XM and Sirius have already ignored the requirement that they offer interoperable receivers. And unless the price controls are enforced in perpetuity, it is only a matter of time before they can freely explore the fee tolerance of loyal subscribers without needing to factor in the availability of a competitive alternative.