FCC chairman's support for XM-Sirius deal "leaked"

While the FCC hasn't announced any decision, the Associated Press says that its chairman will recommend approval of the $5 billion merger between XM and Sirius. Kevin Martin does so, however, on the condition that the two satellite broadcasters freeze consumer prices for three years and turn over 24 channels (that's 8% of their combined satellite capacity) to "noncommercial and minority programming." The merged giant must also offer an "open radio standard" meant to create competition amongst radio manufacturers and an "a la carte" service that would allow customers to only pay for the channels they want as long as they purchase new radios. Speaking of those non-existent radios, the two claim that Interoperable radios capable of receiving both XM and Sirius broadcasts would be available "within one year." With DoJ Antitrust approval out of the way, all that's left now is to circulate Martin's recommendation for final vote from the FCC's four other commissioners -- a vote on a merger which, as strange as it seems, was expressly prohibited by the FCC when it licensed the satellite radio industry back in 1997.

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