Senators' Letter Makes Last-Second Demands For Satcaster Merger
June 30, 2008 at 4:50 PM (PT)
Even though FCC approval of the SIRIUS and XM merger appears quite likely, terrestrial radio forces are still calling on Congressional reinforcements to throw a monkey wrench in the works. The latest salvo is a letter from Senators JOHN KERRY, CLAIRE McCASKILL and BEN CARDIN have sent a letter to FCC Chairman KEVIN MARTIN demanding that more channels be set aside for minority interests, and that it be a requirement that HD equipment are installed in satellite radio receivers.
The demands are hardly minimal. Under the current proposal, the merged satcasters would donate 12 channels (of roughly 4%) of its 300-channel capacity to minority interests, with 12 more channels going to non-comm and educational programming. The Senators demand: anywhere from 20% (around 60 channels) to 50% of satcaster programming capacity.
Another major concession would be the in requirements that all satellite radio devices also be integrated with HD Radio receivers. The reason: It's an "essential check against the merged entity using its monopolistic power to stifle a promising, free, over-the-air radio technology."
How a pay service could stifle a free service is left unexplained.
Two other demands -- that interoperable radios be produced and that the merged entity adhere to pricing constraints -- have basically been agreed to by the satcasters already. However, one need to be a soothsayer to expect the satcasters to strenuously object to the first two demands; no doubt they would consider such proposals an effort to sabotage the merger, if not the entire satellite radio business.