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FCC Close to Approving XM-Sirius Merger

There was no Federal Communications Commission vote on the XM Satellite Radio-Sirius Satellite Radio merger Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the negotiations between FCC chairman Kevin Martin and commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate. However, as of late Wednesday, Tate was closer to voting to approve the deal, which would give the chairman the three votes he needs.

There are still edits to be made on Martin's original proposal, and the FCC will first have to take enforcement action against the companies for their violations of rules regarding transmission equipment.

But when that enforcement item is released, a done XM-Sirius deal is likely not far behind.

Tate and Martin were said to be still negotiating over the terms of that enforcement, although The Wall Street Journal said it would be a $20 million fine. A Tate aide would not comment.

As expected, FCC member Jonathan Adelstein voted against the merger as proposed by Martin, but Adelstein also signaled that he expected the deal to get Tate's vote and gain FCC approval, and an FCC source said it was just a matter of time before Tate casts the third vote to approve the merger.

Adelstein proposed tougher conditions than the plan Martin circulated and said he was willing to negotiate, but Tate's is the swing vote.

"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 said. “Instead, it appears that 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." 

Commissioner Michael Copps, Adelstein's fellow Democrat, voted Tuesday to oppose the merger, while Martin and fellow Republican commissioner Robert McDowell voted for it. Tate has declined to comment on her vote, but she would have to be the "monopoly with window dressing vote."