The Justice Department gave its blessing to the XM-Sirius merger yesterday. Now we wait for the FCC to weigh in, most likely siding with Justice in giving the merger the OK. Maybe they’ll throw up a few last minute hurdles—please demonstrate how this merger helps the consumer and not just your bottom line, for example—but most analysts I’ve heard and read said they expect the FCC to ultimately give its OK.
Not everyone’s happy with the decision, as you may have guessed.
The National Association of Broadcasters officially freaked out yesterday, saying it was “astonished” that Justice approved the merger. “We are astonished that the Justice Department would propose granting a monopoly to two companies that systematically broke FCC rules for more than a decade. To hinge approval of this monopoly on XM and Sirius’s refusal to deliver on a promise of interoperable radios is nothing short of breathtaking.” (A note on that interoperable radio thing: Supposedly, XM radios cannot receive Sirius signals and vice-versa. Both companies need to figure out a way for that to be fixed so current subscribers don’t get screwed.)
The NAB, which is the lobbying arm for terrestrial radio, among others, doesn’t want to see a combined satellite radio company for a few reasons. It knows that both companies are unlikely to survive as two separate operations much longer, so preventing a merger will ensure their dissolution. That’s one less competitor for terrestrial radio to battle. It hides behind that whole “monopoly” argument because, frankly, it’s an easy sell. A mere utterance of the word and most layman get suspicious.
Another group not particularly happy is fans of the Opie & Anthony Show. I’m a fan, if you haven’t figured that out by now. They fear the combined company will treat Howard Stern, their foil, better than their own Gregorio and Antonio. Mel Karmazin, who’s currently Sirius’ CEO and is pegged to become the combined company’s CEO as well, is long thought to be a supporter of Howard Stern. Not in a fan sense, but in a “What’s that, Howard? You want to be on mornings and me to force O&A into afternoons? Done.” (Karmazin, Stern and O&A all worked for Viacom several years ago. Stories of Karmazin taking sides and undermining O&A abound. Google, and syndication underground, is your friend there.)