updated 01:30 pm EDT, Thu June 5, 2008
FCC Acts Soon on Sirius XM
Federal Communications Commission chief Kevin Martin on Thursday told CNBC that his agency is nearing approval of the long-delayed Sirius and XM merger. While declining to give a timetable for any decision, Martin says the FCC hopes to make its choice "soon" and that the two satellite radio providers have agreed to make changes to their price structure to clear legal hurdles, including an option for subscribers to order individual channels rather than complete bundles and to specifically exclude channels with objectionable content.
One of the chief obstacles in approving the merger is a rule in FCC licensing that would bar the union, Martin says, requiring that the FCC make an exception if it's willing to approve the merger.
The FCC chairman has increasingly spoken out on the merger and most recently said he believes an approval could come before July. Such efforts would still come more than a year after Sirius and XM first proposed that they could unite and months after Department of Justice approval that has already decided the merger would have no significant harmful effect on customer choice.
Opponents of the merger, which primarily include terrestrial radio backers such as the National Association of Broadcasters, have contended that a unified Sirius and XM would amount to a monopoly that prevents rivals from offering similar radio services. At one point, fellow objector iBiquity had demanded that the FCC force HD Radio support into every device that supports satellite radio in an attempt to shore up its format and ensure wider competition.