As a condition of merger, SDARS service Sirius XM agreed to set aside a number of channels to be leased to entities beyond its editorial control in order to provide diversity to the service. The FCC has streamlined the definition of a “qualified entity” to avoid constitutional challenge and is opening the door to populate the channels.
The new definition is this: the qualified entity must “(1) not be directly or indirectly owned, in whole or in part, by Sirius XM or any affiliate of Sirius XM; (2) not share any common officers, directors, or employees with Sirius XM or any affiliate of Sirius XM; and (3) not have any existing relationships with Sirius XM for the supply of programming during the two years prior to the adoption date of this Order.”
The FCC commented, “We expect that this revised Qualified Entity definition will encourage new entry because programmers already carried on the Sirius XM platform are excluded. In addition, we believe that additional guidance will help focus Sirius XM’s selection of lessees in a manner that will promote source, viewpoint, and programming diversity.”
Sirius XM will be involved in selecting the channel programmers, making sure they are technically qualified, and the company is expected to make a good faith effort to promote the Commission’s diversity goal. The Media Bureau will have a chance to review the selections. The FCC has a say on capacity allocation, transparency of process and some implementation issues; Sirius XM and its new partners will negotiate terms and other items.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski commented, “The Commission takes action today to foster the availability of diverse programming to satellite radio subscribers and to promote access to the satellite radio platform for independent programmers and new entrants, including small businesses, women, and minorities. This Order ensures that Sirius XM will reserve channels for programmers truly independent of Sirius XM, who will be new voices on the satellite radio platform, providing original programming of a type not already available, or service to historically underserved audiences. The Order paves the way for the prompt introduction of these new services, affording smaller, independent programmers a meaningful opportunity to obtain satellite radio distribution.”