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Thousands Comment To FCC On Sirius/XM Merger

Washington — The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and proponents of the Sirius/XM merger filed comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) yesterday, as the deadline for public comments on the merger expired.

The NAB called on the FCC today to deny the merger or designate a hearing to determine whether a merger would serve the public interest. At the same time, XM and Sirius issued a statement claiming that the volume of support from organizations and citizens shows that the merger is in the public’s interest and should be approved.

Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin stated, “The thousands of pro-merger comments from organizations representing diverse populations and interests, individuals, businesses and experts plainly demonstrate that the combination of Sirius and XM is in the public interest.”

Since the FCC opened its docket on the merger, more than 3,500 individuals as well as 20 organizations and businesses, including Circuit City and the NAACP, have filed in support of the merger, said Sirius and XM.

In its FCC filing dated June 28, Circuit City chairman, president/CEO Philip Schoonover said the chain supported the merger because XM and Sirius “have committed to roll out a variety of new products and services post-merger,” among other reasons.

The NAB reiterated that a Sirius/XM merger would create a monopoly and accused the satellite radio companies of “not coming close” to demonstrating that there are “extraordinarily large, cognizable and non-speculative efficiencies that justify the creation of a monopoly.”

Also today, Public Knowledge, a Washington-based public-interest advocacy group, said it suggested the FCC approve a merger only if the deal passes antitrust scrutiny and only if the Commission imposes conditions such as the following:

·         the new company makes 5 percent of its capacity available to non-commercial educational and informational programming over which it has no editorial control;

·         the new company does not raise prices for three years after the merger is approved; and

·         the new company supplies consumers with pricing choices such as a la carte or tiered programming.

Public Knowledge said in its filing, “Absent a merger, the two companies would likely avoid investing in programming that meets the needs of underserved communities. In contrast, a merged company could provide more diverse programming at better prices.”

Four other organizations issued a joint petition to the FCC today against the merger including Consumers Union, Free Press, Consumer Federation of America and Common Cause.

The organizations argued against taking the broader view of the competitive marketplace, asserted by Sirius and XM, that the two services compete with other technologies such as terrestrial and HD Radio so a merger would not constitute a monopoly.