XM/Sirius: Halt or alter


The Consumers Union and a consortium of public broadcasters have weighed in with the FCC to halt or alter the wedding. CU cites heavily redacted documents submitted for the record by watchdog C3SR which suggest collusive behavior in the failure to provide interoperable receivers as stipulated by license for both services. It noted the absurdity of DOJ approving the merger because the two companies didn’t compete due to the difficulty for consumers in switching from one to the other, when the two created that difficulty themselves, linked to the further absurdity of saying that “…they do compete with iPods and other devices – even though they don’t interoperate.” Saying the documents do not appear to be hiding commercially sensitive information, CU wants them released to the public and made part of the record.

The public broadcasters, meanwhile, attacked the merger as a diminishment of diversity. If it must go through, they called for interoperable radios with HD reception capability; a 25% set-aside for noncommercial, minority and safety purposes (mirroring the precedent of the 20% non-commercial portion of the FM band); and initiation of a rulemaking establishing the rules of the road for the set-aside, along with interim maintenance of all current relationship with noncom and minority programmers.

RBR/TVBR observation: Let’s follow the logic. Radio is in an extended difficult revenue period. With that as a backdrop, Maybe Clear Channel should LMA CBS, ignoring the old FCC axiom that you have to be able to own it to LMA it, and then, after noting that Clear Channel and CBS don’t really compete any longer, use it as justification for a 16-station cap in the larger radio markets. It makes as much sense as XM/Sirius.

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