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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Well, this would shut Ed Schultz up, now, wouldn't it
Posted by Jill | 5:55 AM
Soon you'll be able to hear Ed Schultz AND Sam Seder without having to subscribe to two satellite radio services:

The nation’s two satellite radio services, Sirius and XM, announced plans yesterday to merge, a move that would end their costly competition for radio personalities and subscribers but that is also sure to raise antitrust issues.

The two companies, which report close to 14 million subscribers, hoped to revolutionize the radio industry with a bevy of niche channels offering everything from fishing tips to salsa music, and media personalities like Howard Stern and Oprah Winfrey, with few commercials. But neither has yet turned an annual profit and both have had billions in losses.

While there had been speculation of a merger, neither side had engaged in serious negotiations until December, when both companies determined it was in their best interests to complete a deal while the Bush administration was in power, people in the negotiations said.

The companies said yesterday that their $13 billion merger — code-named Project Big Sky by XM — would give consumers a broader range of programming, while eliminating overlapping stations that focus on genres of music. At the same time, they said, they could cut duplicated costs in sales and marketing.

A merger would require antitrust approval from the Justice Department and would have to be considered in the public interest by the Federal Communications Commission.

Under their operating licenses, XM and Sirius were prohibited from ever owning each other’s license. The commission could waive that rule. But critics pointed to its rejection of the merger of the satellite television broadcasters EchoStar and DirecTV four years ago.

Questioned last month about a possible Sirius-XM merger, the F.C.C. chairman, Kevin J. Martin, initially appeared to be skeptical, but later said that if such a deal were proposed, the agency would consider it.

In a statement yesterday, Mr. Martin acknowledged that the F.C.C. rule could complicate a merger but said the commission would evaluate the proposal. “The hurdle here, however, would be high,” he said.

For all that not having to decide between Sirius Left and Air America on XM is compelling, the idea that there would be only ONE carrier for satellite radio is NOT good for consumers over the long run. For once you get people accustomed to static-free reception and a wide array of programming, you may then raise prices as much as you want, whenever you want, with no fear of being undercut by competitors.


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