After 16 months of review, the Federal Communications Commission late Friday night approved the satellite radio merger. The vote was 3–2, split down party lines.
Chairman Kevin Martin said the merger is in the public interest. “Consumers will enjoy a variety of programming at reduced prices and more diversified programming choices. It will also spur innovation and advance the development and use of interoperable radios, bringing more flexible programming options to all subscribers.”
Fellow GOP Commissioner Deborah Tate was the last to vote on the merger and cast the deciding vote in favor after Sirius and XM agreed to pay a total of nearly $20 million in fines to settle enforcement issues as we reported earlier.
Tate said in a statement the companies would be under a five-year compliance plan, almost twice the normal period.
The companies said they would get interoperable radios to market in nine months and move to open up their receiver-manufacturing process to all companies. While it’s not mandated that HD Radio be included in all future satellite radio tuners, the new XM and Sirius receivers cannot sign deals to block the technology from being part of new satellite radio gear.
Tate also said in a statement that the agency would launch an inquiry seeking comment from automakers, electronic manufacturers and the public about whether to mandate HD Radio in future satellite radio receivers.
The companies already agreed to a la carte pricing, a three-year hold on price increases and to set aside 8% of their combined channels for public interest and minority programming.
The Democratic commissioners voted against the deal. Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein told the Associated Press he hoped that as a combined company, Sirius-XM “keep their edge and don’t become a fat and happy monopoly.”