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FCC Gets Earful On Satellite Radio Merger

Monday was the deadline for initial comments in the proposed merger of XM and Sirius satellite radio, and there were plenty of them.

The National Association of Broadcasters' two cents was in the form of a formal petition to deny the merger--it has for months been informally advising anyone in earshot that the merger is a monopoly and a government bailout.

It reiterated those arguments Monday, saying "The commission should not countenance this assault on competition."

Also asking the FCC to deny the merger were consumer groups Common Cause, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, and Free Press, which said that XM and Sirius' contention that there is one big digital audio market with satellite radio only one of many players is a way to hide the "truly anticomptetitive and anti-consumer nature of the proposed merger."

Public Knowledge, which promotes fair use rights for intellectual property, weighed in in support of the merger so long as the merged company sets aside 5% of its capacity for noncommercial educational programming over which it has no control; provides a la carte or tiered programming, and does not raise prices for three years.

XM/Sirius have already promised some form of a la carte programming to help secure approval, which got them the support of a family values group that applauded the move.  It has also said it would not raise prices.

The Progress and Freedom Foundation, a think tank that ponders digital-related public policy, also gave a nod to the merger by suggesting any antitrust review should look beyond the two satellite players to other digital information providers in deciding whether the resulting company would be a monopoly, saying that market should also include "services the platforms in question may provide in the future that they do not today."

But consumer groups counter that "merger analysis does not rest on theoretical discussions of what people might do in some distant future, but what people actually do today."

Replies to the initial FCC comments are due July 24.