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FCC Seeks Raft of Info from XM, Sirius

There was talk Friday that the merger of XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio was poised to get the go-ahead from the Justice Department, and then perhaps from the Federal Communications Commission, as well.

If so, nobody told the FCC, which sent out letters Friday to the lawyers representing XM and Sirius seeking reams of  "additional information and clarification" on everything from the talent contracts of Howard Stern and Steven Van Zandt to programming deals with everybody from the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing and the National Basketball Association, to CNN and Disney, to retailer agreements.

But wait, there's more, much more.

According to copies of the letters obtained by B&C, the requests range from information on deals with programmers and retailers and car companies, to copies of al ofl the studies they submitted in support of the merger, complete with underlying data, as well as information on technical specifications, recievers and information about customer promotions and marketing.

Lawyers for both companies will be very busy.

The FCC also wants to know about the promised cost-savings of the combined company and how they would be in the public's interest, including "a full explanation as to why those cost savings would not be achieved absent the proposed transaction." It also wants explanations of the promised a la carte programming and evidence they companies can deliver.

Requests for more information are not unusual for an agency reviewing a merger proposal, but with a Nov. 16 deadline for receiving that information, and then the time needed to process what will have to be thousands of pages of information, the FCC doesn't look like it is ready to decide just yet.

If the commission rules within 30 days, though, it would still be within its self-imposed shot clock for merger reviews, but it has exceeded that deadline by hundreds of days before, so it is more of a guideline than a deadline.