XM, Sirius Extend Merger Agreement Until May 1

XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio extended their merger agreement until May 1, agreeing not to exercise their right to terminate the deal.

There had been a March 1 trigger for unwinding the proposal if it had not received an OK from the Justice Department or the Federal Communications Commission, neither of which have finished their review.

Justice is expected to weigh in first, but FCC chairman Kevin Martin said recently that he expected the commission to be done with its review by the end of March. Martin said the same thing about the Liberty Media-DirecTV deal, and the agency was able to beat that deadline by one month.

The FCC has been considering the merger, which has been strongly opposed by terrestrial broadcasters, for 266 days. It set itself a 180-day shot clock for merger reviews, but that is informal and the commission has frequently missed that mark.

The key issue appears to be whether or not the satellite-radio marketplace is its own separate entity -- XM and Sirius are the only national license holders -- or part of a larger audio marketplace that includes terrestrial radio, cable radio, Internet radio and downloads.

John Eggerton

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.