Think tanker wants to free XM/Sirius


Daniel Ballon, a fellow at the Pacific Research Institute of San Francisco, was given space at Philly Online to shill for the merger of XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio. It is full of interesting arguments. Let’s take a look at a few.

* Claim: Competitors are stopping an "otherwise clear-cut approval process." Response: Indeed, what can be more clear-cut than approving the merger of two companies that were banned from ever becoming one at birth?

* Claim: The disapproving government will be an accomplice in the company’s bankruptcy. Response: If that’s the case, they should say so — instead both insist they are and will remain solvent whether or not the merger is approved.

* Claim: Growing competition includes "MP3 players, ‘high-definition’ digital radio, cellular music services and even Internet radio." Response: Many of these "competitors” can hardly be called up-and-running, putting the effectiveness of their competition into the pure speculation category. And while we’re at it, why don’t we keep piling on? There are millions upon millions of home stereos. Many subway stops feature live music, as do numerous clubs and arenas in most cities. People may opt to watch a video service, rather than listen to satellite radio, offering zillions more competitive outlets. Why not add libraries? People who want to read a book certainly won’t be tuning into satellite radio. The list is endless.

* Claim: Unlike "most real monopolies," neither company has made a profit. Response: Duh — they aren’t monopolies yet. The plan at both is to eventually get to a sustainable subscriber level. Will they? Who knows? But they both think they can and will achieve that goal.

* Claim: Lack of approval gives consumers fewer choices. Response: Right. Now we can choose between XM and Sirius; if they merge, we won’t have a choice.

RBR/TVBR observation: OK, we admit it. This has been one extended RBR/TVBR observation from start to finish, but here’s some more. Maybe the NAB has invested more effort than is necessary to oppose the merger of XM/Sirius. But we agree that it should be opposed, and there are other reasons to oppose it we haven’t even brought up this time around. Maybe we’re crazy, but when we puzzle through a math problem like two minus one, we come up with one, which last time we checked worked out to less choice than two. Some people just can’t say no to any merger. That may protect the freedom of Mel Karmazin to do whatever he wants to do, but it does nothing to protect the freedom of an average citizen to have a selection of satellite audio services and their unique attributes. Take away that choice, the average citizen is at the mercy of the remaining take-it-or-leave-it service, and that is never a good thing.