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NAB Takes Further Aim At XM/Sirius

The National Association of Broadcasters has filed reply comments in the FCC's ongoing review of the proposed XM/Sirius satellite radio merger against expressing its strong opposition.

NAB says the FCC's finding, when issuing the satellite licenses in 1997, that one company should not hold both satellite licenses is a binding rule that should not be "waived, modified or repealed." XM/Sirius argued that it was not binding.

NAB says the merger would result in higher prices and fewer programming choices, which XM/Sirius disputes.

Broadcasters say approving the merger would create a satellite radio monopoly that competes with them on the local front, but which they cannot compete against for national delivery of audio programming. They also argue it would be a government bailout for satellite radio's overpayment for programming (Howard Stern's nine-figure deal, for example). XM/Sirius counter that there is plenty of competition in the national audio delivery market, including syndicated terrestrial radio, cable radio, and audio downloads, and that broadcasters are just trying to protect their turf from increased competition.

The FCC is in day 80 of its review of the merger according to its self-imposed 180-day shot clock for ruling on mergers, though it has been known to exceed that timeline by more than double.

NAB Monday was also circulating a letter from Gary Flowers, president of the Black Leadership Forum, opposing the merger. Flowers said the a la carte proposal the companies have offered if they are allowed by the FCC to merge (FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is a big backer of a la carte programming) would put black-owned programmers at a "competitive disadvantage." Flowers has also taken issue with Martin's push for cable a la carte programming.

For its part, XM/Sirius have collected the support of a variety of minority groups, including the League of United Latin American Citizens and a group that helps black farmers.