Media

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Well, the country's two radio satellite companies are now almost one. Four out of five commissioners in the Federal Communications Commission have already voted on this merger; two were for it, two were against it, and now the last regulator has signaled her approval of bringing XM and Sirius together. NPR's Felix Contreras has more.

FELIX CONTRERAS: Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate is the last to vote. FCC observers say she is leaning toward approval, but only after the two companies agree to price caps on subscriptions, commit to manufacturing radios that receive both XM and Sirius signals, and agree to set aside channels for educational programming and programming for minorities and women.

The companies also agreed to pay more than $19 million dollars in fines for longstanding violations of FCC regulations concerning radio signal interference.

The proposed merger came to the FCC more than a year ago after shareholders for both companies voted to consolidate. Neither XM nor Sirius had managed to sign up enough subscribers to cover their operating costs.

The FCC granted separate licenses for broadcast spectrum space to the companies in 1997. XM went on the air in 2001 followed by Sirius a year later.

Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, who voted against the deal, says a combined company would control an enormous amount of the public airwaves.

Mr. JONATHAN ADELSTEIN (FCC): They're going to have more spectrum than the AM and FM bands combined. It's an enormous amount of market power to be concentrating in one company without insuring there's adequate protections for consumers.

CONTRERAS: The Department of Justice cleared the merger in March, drawing protests from consumer advocates, broadcasters and National Public Radio. NPR has two channels on Sirius Satellite Radio and it has opposed the merger on the grounds it would create a monopoly satellite radio provider.

Felix Contreras, NPR News.

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