Martin: XM-Sirius Review Could Still Be Done By Month's End

Satellite-Radio Providers’ a la Carte Offer Intrigues Federal Communications Commission Chairman

The Federal Communications Commission's review of the proposed merger of XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio could still be done by the end of March.


That had been FCC chairman Kevin Martin's projection, and he was not ready to revise or extend those remarks at a meeting with reporters Tuesday.

"It is just the beginning of this month, so I am not going to revise anything yet," he said.

Martin reiterated that he thought the two satellite-radio companies had a "high hurdle" given that they were the two national providers of the service. Although the companies argued that the market is broader and includes terrestrial radio, he added, "The commission's precedent would indicate that we would consider it in a narrower context." But he also said the companies’ proposal to deliver their satellite-radio channels in a modified a la carte regime "was intriguing and could provide for additional consumer protection."

Martin is a big fan of a la carte -- almost certainly the reason XM and Sirius weighed in with the per-channel proposal to help sweeten the deal.

Martin did not say whether the FCC would wait for the Justice Department, which is also considering the merger, to weigh in with its determination of what it thinks the relevant competitive market is. As he pointed out, Justice goes first 99% of the time, but the FCC went first in its most recent merger review -- the combination of Liberty Media and DirecTV.