FCC approves merger of XM and Sirius satellite radio operations

| Monday, July 28, 2008

It took 412 days for a ruling, but the Federal Communications Commission has approved the merger of the XM and Sirius satellite radio operations.

News of the commission’s 3-2 vote to approve the merger traveled fast on Friday evening, July 25, and was picked up during the weekend by scores of major publications.

Calls by Land Line to XM and Sirius officials, as well as the FCC board, had gone unreturned as of press time on Monday, July 28. Land Line Now, the official radio program for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, airs on XM Satellite Radio’s Channel 171.

Satellite radio subscribers may be asking what a merger will do to their service plans and equipment. XM and Sirius officials have assured that consumers will have choices for equipment and programming if they want to receive both services.

Officials at FCC said the transaction will benefit consumers by making available to them a wider array of programming choices at various price points and by affording them greater choice and control over the programming to which they subscribe. To read the commission’s full statement, click here.

Officials have stated in previous press releases that the companies will bring an interoperable radio to market within a year after the merger gains approval.

Both XM and Sirius offer music, news, talk, sports and specialty programming including shows for truckers. As of press time, word had not come down about how many channels the merged company will operate or how those channels will be chosen.

According to a press statement from FCC, subscribers will be able to buy a standard package and add specialty channels “a la carte” or in packaged deals. Subscribers will also be able to buy a “best of both” package.

FCC officials started their deliberations clock on June 12, 2007. FCC officials stopped the clock on Friday, July 25, after 412 days, according to the FCC Web site.

XM and Sirius officials first filed an application to merge in February 2007 and have jumped through various hoops leading up to the FCC vote. The merged company is reportedly worth $13 billion.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the merger includes a Sirius purchase of XM, even though XM had a larger number of subscribers going into the deal. XM reportedly has 9.7 million subscribers while Sirius has 8.4 million.

According to the FCC, 8 percent of the programming in the merged company will be educational or minority-owned.

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