NPR Opposes XM/Sirius Merger

The XM/Sirius satellite merger players were pulling out the big guns Monday.

Mel Karmazin, CEO of Sirius, was scheduled to talk at a National Press Club luncheon Monday about the decision by XM and Sirius to start offering à la carte programming, a promise they made to Congress if they are allowed to merge their two services.

On the other side, the National Association of Broadcasters was applauding the decision by National Public Radio to oppose the merger, saying NPR was the first programmer carried on the satellite services to come out in opposition to the meld.

NPR told the FCC it feared the merger would make it harder for public stations to get satellite radio carriage and thus "substantially harm the diversity of voices to the detriment of [satellite] programing.

The FCC, which is currently reviewing the merger because it involves two satellite radio licenses it issued to the companies, has asked for input on whether it should be bound by its initial finding that the two licenses should not be held by one company.

Sirius and XM say that satellite radio is part of a large and vigorously competitive audio delivery market including terrestrial radio, cable radio, and audio downloads. NAB and NPR counter that satellite radio is its own national market that competes with local radio, but against which local radio cannot compete nationally.

NPR said that if the FCC did approve the merger, it should only do so with stict conditions, including the two companies giving up enough specrum to create a second satellite service, and strict price and service oversight by the government, though even then it said it doubted the effectiveness of any conditions.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.