FCC Approves Sirius-XM Merger

Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of Sirius-XM. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new anti-consumer practices. To seek out new revenue streams and crowd out new competitors. To boldly safeguard the dangerous monopoly granted last night by the FCC.

Or something like that.

The Commission approved the controversial merger last night on a 3-2 party-line vote. The nation’s only two satellite radio operators have agreed to abide by several voluntarily conditions:

  • Consumers will be able to purchase small a la carte packages.
  • Third parties will be allowed to design and sell their own receivers.
  • Sirius-XM will soon rollout an interoperable receiver that can receive signals from both companies.
  • 4% of the new conglomerate’s channels will be reserved for public interest programming.
  • No price hikes for three years.

The company earned Republican Commissioner Deborah Tate’s swing vote after agreeing to make a $19.7 million payoff “voluntary contribution” to the FCC for violating Commission regulations.

The two Democratic Commissioners were receptive to a merger, but voted against the deal after the companies refused to offer strong consumer protections.

“I was hoping to forge a bipartisan solution that would offer consumers more diversity in programming, better price protection, greater choices among innovative devices and real competition with digital radio,” Adelstein declared. “Instead, it appears they’re going to get a monopoly with window dressing. We missed a great opportunity to reach a bipartisan agreement that would have benefited the American people.”

Last week, Adelstein told reporters that he’d back the proposed union if the two parties honored a six-year price cap, include digital radio in all tuners, and “make one-quarter of their satellite capacity available for public interest and minority programming.”

Both Sirius and XM received their satellite radio licenses from the FCC in 1997 under the condition that they never merge.

Satellite Radio Merger Approved [Washington Post]
Report: FCC set to approve XM Radio-Sirius merger (updated) [Ars Technica]
PREVIOUSLY: XM-Sirius Merger Will Double Monthly Prices?

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.