NAB hired former Senator and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in its effort to block the proposed satellite radio merger.
In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Ashcroft, now head of The Ashcroft Group, said allowing the companies to merge would form a “dominant player who would have both the incentive and the ability to use monopoly rents to undermine competition in media and broadcasting.”
Ashcroft cited the proposed merger of two satellite TV companies, DirecTV and EchoStar, whose joining was blocked by the FCC and Justice Department, as reaffirming “the principal of not granting a single commercial spectrum licensee an exclusive spectrum monopoly.” Ashcroft stated in the letter that the XM–Sirius merger “raises serious competition questions.”
Ashcroft was attorney general at the time of the proposed DirecTV–EchoStar merger.
XM and Sirius disagree with Ashcroft’s assessment, saying the relevant market isn’t just their companies, but also includes HD Radio and portable music players.
The Wall Street Journal reported that NAB was the second door Ashcroft knocked on to offer his lobbying services. The paper quotes an XM official as saying Ashcroft approached the satcaster after the merger was announced, offering his consulting services, and that XM declined.
NAB Executive Director Dennis Wharton stated, “NAB approached former Attorney General Ashcroft to review the proposed XM–Sirius merger and offer his honest opinion as an antitrust expert. We are not aware of any alleged previous discussions between Mr. Ashcroft and officials at either satellite radio company.”