XM/Sirius all but approved


Satcasters XM and Sirius confirm that they are working out a consent decree with the FCC that would result in a total of $19M finding its way into the national treasury, which would then clear a path to FCC approval for the duo’s $3.9B merger. In fact, 3-2 party line vote for approval is expected at any moment. However, NAB thinks the FCC 8th Floor may not have the last word.

Deborah Taylor Tate has been the fulcrum after the known sentiments of her colleagues reached a 2-2 deadlock. According to numerous reports, clearing up the regulatory matter, which mostly involves infractions with the location and operation of terrestrial repeater stations, was Tate’s major sticking point.

According to the satcasters themselves, XM is looking at a payment of about $17M, and will have to shut down 50 non-compliant repeaters and bring another 50 into compliance. Sirius will pay about $2M and bring 11 repeaters into compliance.

It is believed that Tate has other minor concerns, but none are believed to be deal-breakers within the Republican majority on the Commission.

NAB believes FCC approval may not necessarily be the end of the matter, however. "This sweetheart deal for Wall Street speculators is premised on a promise that a monopoly will provide consumers with lower prices, better service and more programming formats,” said NAB’s Dennis Wharton. “Only members of the Flat Earth Society would buy into such specious nonsense.”

A decision to approve could be appealed to the FCC itself, Congress could possibly step in and/or the matter could be referred to the courts.

RBR/TVBR observation: When in doubt in Washington, there is often the possibility of playing for time. Some analysts think XM and Sirius may already have a dying medium on their hands as wifi audio service comes closer to being automobile-ready. And a more immediate concern is lead time to make sure appropriate interoperable receivers are ready for retailers before the holiday season. So while we wait for the official FCC seal of approval, we are also waiting to see just what the equal and opposite move will be from the merger’s many opponents.