Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Is it gonna happen?

The NAB, which has spent millions over the past 16 months to prevent two satellite radio companies from becoming one entity, Monday (June 16) took a swipe at the pair hours after FCC chairman Kevin Martin announced that he would support the union with a series of conditions that were accepted by Sirius and XM last week.
"Given their systematic breaking of virtually every rule set forth by the FCC in their 11 years of existence, it would be curious if the Commission now rewards XM and Sirius with a monopoly," said NAB executive VP Dennis Wharton.Wharton referred to a report in the Wall Street Journal that Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) reportedly wrote earlier this month to the Senate Judiciary Committee asking for an unredacted copy of the May 27 letter from C3SR, which described itself as a group of subscribers who oppose the merger and were complaining that the satcasters have failed to comply with FCC requirements that their receivers be interoperable. Apparently Brownback did not realize that the group was created by and is funded by the NAB in an effort to derail the satcasters attempt to unify.
In December 2006, Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin told R&R that Sirius and XM were co-funding a research lab in Florida that had spent several years developing a radio receiver that would bring in signals from both companies. At the time, the receiver had not been presented to the FCC for approval.
But not every group was unhappy with Martin's endorsement of the deal. Public Knowledge president and co-founder Gigi B. Sohn thought the conditions fairly reflected her group's recommendations to Congress and to the FCC.
“From what we have been able to read and to learn this morning, many of the conditions the FCC is considering placing on a potential merger of XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio are conditions that we have proposed and supported for more than a year, both in Congressional testimony, as well as in meetings with the Commission."
“We support what we have heard today about the Commission’s proposals, although we would like to know more about how the set-aside for noncommercial channels would be implemented,” Sohn added.
Martin recommended that spectrum space for 24 channels be cut away from the new entity -- no new name for the company has been announced -- that would be used for minority and public service programming which must be non-commercial. It is unclear how the criteria for license holders will be defined. Georgetown Partners, a black-owned private equity partnership in Bethesda, Md., has expressed a desire for a license for spectrum coming out of the deal, but it wanted at least 40 channels and to offer commercial-supported programming.
Cliff Burnstein's Primoshpere, one of the original four companies that applied to the FCC for a satellite broadcast license 16 years ago and who says he still has $140,000 on deposit with the commission, has also had a handful of meetings with FCC commissioners and staff to discuss the newly outlined spectrum. On May 9, Burnstein told R&R that Primosphere's company would be advertising-based and would offer about 30 channels of mostly music programming. Burnstein said Primosphere’s “will come at this from a music and programming perspective.” Burnstein said his idea is not to compete with terrestrial radio but “to serve the underserved.”But even with conditions, not all of the FCC commissioners are going to be reluctant to embrace the deal. Commissioner Michael Copps said in a statement, "As I’ve said from the beginning, this merger is a steep climb for me. That hasn’t changed. Contrary to at least one press report, I have not pushed for any conditions that would support a finding that the transaction is in the public interest. I look forward to reviewing the chairman’s proposal and will consider it with an open mind.”

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