Satellite Radio Idol

If the proposed XM-Sirius deal were a reality TV show, it would be a hit.

Earlier this week I noted reaction to the deal from a group of
women's organizations. A few more examples this week: FamilyNet, which brings us Christian Talk on Sirius (channel 161), joined the large and growing line-up of those voicing their approval for the merger. And Americans for Tax Reform, and the 60 Plus Association, filed a joint comment with the FCC in support of the deal.

And the list goes on and on. As Orbitcast, which has both ears tuned to the proposed combination says, "the hits just keep on coming."

In fact, Sirius Buzz (a completely disinterested site of course) is keeping an "FCC comment scorecard," and according
their tally (June 22): "nearly 2,600 comments have been filed, and over 2,000 of the comments are PRO Merger." And per this latest scorecard (June 27): "Daily percentages in favor of the merger were above 85% on a regular basis, and it was only this week that the volume of comments began to slow substantially." Looks like National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) members and others against the merger, who appear to be losing the comment war so far, could be picking up steam in the week before the comment period closes.

I personally have not read thousands of comments. Go right over to the
FCC's XM-Sirius transaction page (MB Docket No. 07-57) for comments, pro and con (which appear to be substantially fewer than thousands), and other documents posted by the Commission to date.

Meanwhile, FCC has asked for even more comments. Yesterday the Commission released a
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking opinions on "whether to waive, modify or repeal the language prohibiting the combination of satellite radio providers in the Commission's 1997 Order establishing the Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service," in the event the Commission determines the proposed merger serves the public interest. (At issue is FCC's clear anti-merger language: "Even after DARS licenses are granted, one licensee will not be permitted to acquire control of the other remaining satellite DARS license. This prohibition on transfer of control will help assure sufficient continuing competition in the provision of satellite DARS service." Thus, the trick, if you're for the deal, is getting around this.

Speaking for folks who staunchly favor upholding the rule, the
American Antitrust Institute concluded in its June 5 comment, "As long as the firms are likely to be viable without the merger, and satellite radio is not a natural monopoly, there is no good reason for the Commission to abandon its policy of ensuring competition in the delivery of spectrum-based services in satellite DARS."

As a matter of economics, if Professor Thomas Hazlett of George Mason University, former chief economist of the FCC were voting, he'd give the merger a thumbs up. His paper (apparently prepared for XM and Sirius) and filed with the Commission, titled
"The Economics of the Satellite Radio Merger," concludes the deal "will predictably enhance consumer welfare" and the "improved economic vitality of a combined satellite radio company would drive industry innovation, promote competition and enhance programming and pricing options for customers."

Others are pondering why this merger different from EchoStar/DirecTV which got voted off the merger island in 2002. The pro-merger League of Rural Voters files this short
analysis, of why it thinks "the two transactions are fundamentally different." More realistically, as Jimmy Schaeffler on Multichannel News blog says, there are "many similarities -- and some notable differences" between the deals.

If you'd rather not specifically respond to the NPRM, you still have time to file whatever comments you want. Everybody else appears to be doing so.

(Where are Simon, Randy and Paula when we need them?)


UPDATE - 6/29: More support -- the NAACP now endorces the proposed satellite radio combo. And another ol' FCC guy, former commissioner, Harold W. Furchtgott-Roth, weighs in for the companies with a pro-merger opinion. Still, don't turn up the Kelly Clarkson tunes yet...

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IMAGE: Stephen Kroninger illustration courtesy of Newsweek

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